Burton Blatt Institute recognized in proposed NY legislation to support self-employment for people with disabilities

January 6, 2012

The New York State Senate introduced two bills Jan. 4 aimed at dramatically expanding entrepreneurship opportunities for people with disabilities. The measures were sponsored by Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn).

The bills reflect the success of the Start-Up NY program and “Inclusive Entrepreneurship,” developed by the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University and its partners, including SU’s Whitman School of Management, the South Side Innovation Center (SSIC), Onondaga County and the Onondaga Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Start-Up NY and “Inclusive Entrepreneurship” are being replicated in Manhattan in partnership with Hunter College and the Harlem-Columbia SBDC.

BBI is recognized in the bill language as a leader in creating partnerships and developing programs, such as Start-Up NY, that expand entrepreneurship opportunities for people with diverse disabilities (Read bills here: S.6095 and S.6096).

“These measures are particularly important, as unemployment among people with disabilities is estimated at 65-90 percent nationwide. They will help people with disabilities move from what is often dependence on government-subsidized programs to fiscal and economic independence as small-business owners. That makes these bills good fiscal as well as human policy,” says Gary Shaheen, BBI senior vice president.

The proposed legislation calls for expanded support for entrepreneurship and small business development by people with disabilities, as well as the use of social entrepreneurship strategies to reduce reliance on sheltered workshops for people with disabilities. Sheltered workshops refer to environments that employ people with disabilities separately from others.

The bills also create an Individual Development Account (IDA) Pilot Program in 10 sites across the state. An IDA is a structured savings plan wherein each dollar a participant saves is matched up to a certain amount. IDAs help finance the development of business startup and expansion by persons with disabilities. The proposed IDA pilot project is modeled after Start-Up NY’s IDA program, which was supported by the Syracuse Campus-Community Entrepreneurship Initiative, Cooperative Federal and the Gifford Foundation.

“We deeply appreciate Senator Golden’s efforts to ensure this very important issue—the employment of people with disabilities—receives the attention it rightfully deserves,” says Robert Herz, SSIC director. “Self-employment, using a variety of models appropriate to local need and economic conditions, can be a viable option for people with disabilities. When people with disabilities earn money as small business owners, they can reduce their reliance on public assistance, increase their standard of living and self-esteem and contribute to the business and economic growth.”