To celebrate Disability Pride Month, a congress of entrepreneurs with disabilities and leading disability organisations have joined forces to launch #Access2Funding, an innovative campaign to ask the venture capital and investment community to improve the representation, opportunities and experience of founders with disabilities.
The campaign comes as more than half (52%) of the 7.7 million disabled people working in the UK reported facing barriers when applying for financial support. Although small businesses owned by disabled people account for 8.6% of the turnover of all UK businesses and 25% of small business owners identify themselves as disabled or having an illness.
A societal and systemic problem
For small businesses, the Federation of Small Businesses’ ‘Business Without Barriers’ report found that 23% of disabled or ill business owners had experienced discrimination or negative treatment. More than half (52%) have experienced a barrier because of their disability or health condition, such as not being able to commit to regular hours or short deadlines (34%), not being able to apply for financial support (15%) and not having access to equipment (11%).
Regarding financial resources, 41% of disabled small business entrepreneurs did not use any business support, compared with 35% of non-disabled entrepreneurs. They are more likely to use informal support, such as FSB networks (15%) and other networks (19%).
Joseph Williams, co-founder of Clu and founder of the #Access2Funding campaign, commented: “As a disabled and neurodiverse entrepreneur, I have sought funding from many ‘diversity-focused’ investors and have too often been told that disability is ‘not on the agenda’.”
“For so long, I have seen the astronomical potential of our creative, agile and highly skilled community diminished due to a lack of understanding of the value we bring. The #Access2Funding campaign will create a movement of focus and opportunity for our community and highlight the vast inequality we face when it comes to realising our potential as entrepreneurs.”
Celia Hensman, the campaign’s research manager and co-founder and director of The Disability Policy Centre, continued: “Why, when many of the greatest thinkers and creators of all time have come from the disability communities, do we still struggle to be taken seriously as entrepreneurs? The normalisation of disabled people as experts in fields other than disability is essential if more money is to be invested in disabled entrepreneurs.”
“Investors who commit to the #Access2Funding pledge will send a clear message to disabled entrepreneurs that they are committed to helping them succeed and will become a benchmark for access, diversity and inclusion in their sector.”
Victoria Jenkins, who is also involved in the campaign and is the founder of Unhidden Clothing, added: “While the conversation around diversity, equality and inclusion is getting louder, we are still last at the table.”
“It’s a societal and systemic problem,” Victoria adds. “The disability community doesn’t have the same access to education and employment, so we don’t see them. We are literally hidden, as we have been historically. When non-disabled people don’t see us, they don’t consider us.”
“The lack of opportunity presented to us when we seek to maximise our potential and our businesses has gone unchallenged for too long. This needs to change.”
Check Warner, Partner at Ada Ventures, one of the founding signatories of the #Access2Funding pledge, added: “We are passionate about enabling talented people to reach their full potential by funding overlooked founders. We believe that bold ideas are the ones that change the world, and that’s why we wanted to be part of #Access2Funding because it doesn’t matter where the ideas come from if the idea is a game-changer.”
In this article you learned that :
- (52%) of the 7.7 million disabled people working in the UK reported facing barriers when applying for financial support
- Small businesses owned by disabled people account for 8.6% of the turnover of all UK businesses
- 25% of small business owners identify themselves as disabled or having an illness