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Entrepreneurship and self-employment by people with disabilities

he objective of this background paper is to examine the possibility that entrepreneurship – defined as self-employment or business ownership – offers a solution to disabled people’s labour market disadvantage and social exclusion. Specifically, a number of questions are addressed: Can entrepreneurship be used to move people with disabilities into employment? How often do people with disabilities start businesses and what types of businesses do they start? What barriers do people with disabilities face when starting a business? Are these barriers different than those faced by other entrepreneurs? Do different disabilities present different barriers to self-employment or business start-up (e.g., do people with physical disabilities face different barriers than those with mental disabilities)? What are the main policy tools available to help those with disabilities become more entrepreneurial? How can current policies be improved? The review draws on published material and data sources from several countries, although only English language work is included. Databases freely available at Kingston University were searched using terms such as ‘entrepreneurship’, ‘small business’ and ‘selfemployment’, combined with ‘disability’ and ‘impairment’, were used to identify possible sources. Similar terms were used to search Google scholar and the internet more broadly. The report is structured as follows; first, we consider the meaning of ‘disability’ and, in particular, highlight the diversity of impairments and social contexts the term refers to; second, data is presented on self-employment rates among disabled people, the kinds of disabled people who create new businesses and the types of business they set up; third, research on the barriers to entrepreneurship by disabled people is reviewed; fourth, policy objectives and instruments to encourage and support entrepreneurship among disabled people are discussed. Specific examples of policy initiatives intended to support disabled people into or in entrepreneurship are presented.