Cover Image
close this bookSelf-Employment for Disabled People - Experiences from Africa and Asia (ILO, 1989, 100 p.)
close this folder6. Lessons to be learned
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentSelf-employment is not for everyone
View the documentThe disabled are not very different from other people
View the documentInstitutions should be local and flexible
View the documentFinance may be granted but loans must be repaid
View the documentAssistance must “bridge the gap”

The disabled are not very different from other people

Although this book is about the disabled self-employed, many of the case studies and the data from the larger sample might equally well have been drawn from a sample of enterprises owned by the non-disabled in the same countries. There are certain advantages and disadvantages which may make self-employment more or less attractive to disabled than to non-disabled people, but a similar list could be put together for any group of people; the similarities are far more striking than the differences.

Most disabled people who are in business for themselves, like most other entrepreneurs, never received help from official institutions but merely made the best of their resources, using whatever family or other support was available. Those who work for official institutions should regularly remind themselves of this fact and should retain a due sense of humility about what they can do. Above all, they should avoid the temptation to refer to and think of the businesses started by their own clients as “their” businesses; the businesses belong to their owners, who took the risks and deserve the credit. The outsider's contribution can never be more than a modest one, and the best assistance agency is one whose clients deny that it ever helped them.

The types of enterprise started by the disabled are as numerous and varied as those started by anyone else, and their problems seem to be very similar to those of other enterprises. Ill-health seems to be relatively unusual as a problem, perhaps because disabled people take care to select enterprises which they can cope with, and the main difficulties of finance and marketing are exactly those which affect all small enterprises everywhere.

Vending and petty trade are particularly common forms of self-employment for the disabled, as for other people, and tend also to be neglected or even despised by outsiders; it is very encouraging, and in fact unusual, to find a number of institutions preparing trainees specifically for vending and to read lists of successful enterprises run by ex-trainees which include so many varieties of trading as opposed to manufacturing activities.

The case studies also illustrate another common feature of new enterprises everywhere regardless of who starts them, namely that a high rate of failure can be expected. Persistence is one of the main determinants of entrepreneurial success and this, as often as not, has to be demonstrated through unwillingness to give up in spite of repeated failure; others may regard such behaviour as stubborn rather than intelligent, but people who wish to assist the self-employed must be ready to face a high rate of failure among their clients and to recognise that the person who tries again and again will probably succeed one day.