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close this bookSelf-Employment for Disabled People - Experiences from Africa and Asia (ILO, 1989, 100 p.)
close this folder2. Self-employment - An option for disabled people
View the documentDefining the terms
View the documentSelf-employment is not for everyone
View the documentWhy self-employment?
View the documentThe position of the disabled
View the documentDiscouragement from self-employment
View the documentMotivation for self-employment
View the documentWorking together

Self-employment is not for everyone

It is important to stress from the outset that self-employment is not a panacea through which every disabled person, or even a large proportion of the disabled, can become self-supporting and thus avoid the need for further assistance. “Entrepreneurship” is a dangerously fashionable term, and many governments and others are grasping at the concept of “enterprise” as the solution to all their economic problems. Only a minority of any given population is likely to possess the necessary attributes to start their own enterprise successfully. Even in the so-called “informal sector” in urban areas of many developing countries, where nearly everyone appears to be self-employed, it is clear on closer observation that most of them are actually employees working for smaller numbers who make the decisions as to what is bought, made and sold, and at what price.

The position of disabled people is no different; although some may be forced into self-employment because their disability disqualifies them from other forms of livelihood, there are many others whose disability makes them less likely to be able to start their own enterprises. Their physical incapacity may be such as to make self-employment impossible or very difficult, or the reactions of their families or the community to their disability may have the effect of reducing their self-confidence and making them less rather than more able to take the initiative.

It is, of course, impossible to state what proportion of any population of disabled people may reasonably be considered as potential entrepreneurs and expected to do the kind of things that the people described later in this book have been able to do. As pointed out above, the restrictions imposed by a disability may or may not affect the person's ability to work. This depends very much on individual circumstances, and for that reason no general conclusions can be drawn with respect to the appropriateness of certain types of jobs for people with certain types of disabilities. Quite contrary to common prejudice, which tends to associate certain disabilities with certain jobs, it is an established principle that each case requires individual assessment. This clearly means that the feasibility of a self-employment venture can be determined only when taking into account the very special circumstances of the individual. Not only does the disability count but even more the environment (e.g. family support, community attitudes, mobility problems or the market). But successful self-employment will above all else depend on whether the person has the necessary combination of personal characteristics to make him or her an entrepreneur. Although it is possible, as will be discussed later, to create or at least to reveal and enhance the personal characteristics which contribute to entrepreneurial success, it is neither humane, feasible nor cost effective to try to persuade or encourage any but a small minority of the disabled - or of any other group of people - to take this step.