The Disability Opportunity Fund, A Resource We Can Boldly Use

How quickly the entrepreneurial spirit rises in all of us, especially when we have a disability! We may have a dream, a vision, a desire….but we lack the financial means or employment ethos with which to get it off the ground. Our inner doubter crops up and tells us to fear receiving an offer for help with getting on our feet. So we let our self-driven desires drift on the winds of might-have been.

Now, this post is no endorsement of the pyramid scheming get-rich-quick offers that ride like a wooden horse into Troy full of promises that are too good to be true. The best thing we can do with such lures is push the delete key, no matter how desperate we may feel.

There are, however, times when receiving that financial support can make a real difference, especially for those of us who have an entrepreneurial bug buzzing around our brain. Maybe, we want to get into a vocational training opportunity but, for whatever reason, our local Vocational Rehabilitation office will not approve of picking up the tab. Maybe, Voc. Rehab. has the funding but you’ve been stymied by previous fears. You’ve been told in the most ablist terms that you can’t manage or run a business and those cries ring louder than the helpful offers to come alongside you.

I know. I’ve been there, too, and often have to refrain from shaking my head when some opportunity comes along. I’ve also been the gullible victim of the DIY get-rich-quick scheme that comes in a box.

The trick I’ve found in the last few years is to look for those opportunities that don’t promise certain or big money but give you the tools to succeed as an entrepreneur. It’s a misperception about such training schools as World Services For The Blind or Visually Impaired Advancement that being certified in their programs will set you good for that dream job carte blanche. I’ve seen fellow trainees/students enter their programs, complete them and then get discouraged if they don’t find work within a few weeks.

The reality of the schools I mentioned and others is that they provide their patrons skills that will aid them in looking for work. They give behind-the-scenes encouragement through helping to complete resumes or hone your soft skills. You will no doubt gain a huge leg-up on others by learning a lot about adaptive technology. And instructors will constantly remind you that the effort for getting and maintaining work remains in your court.

There, such schools do not and do not claim to provide the get-rich scheme or the easiest path to your betterment. Yet, as someone who is blind or low-vision, you want, or should I say, crave the opportunity to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with others who want the same position or career you do.

For us who have that an entrepreneurial spirit, foundations like The Disability Opportunity Fund exist for the purpose of giving us the financial tools and we need not have any shame in turning to them for the loans or grants they provide. Such financial assistance is no hand-out but an investment like that which takes place through developing a bank loan with which to open and fund a business upstart. The difference is that the fund provides money that has been garnered through private and public charitable donations.

I believe three important components make for success in working with said organizations:

  1. The recognition that paperwork and processing time are part of the deal. I know that filling out forms, waiting for that acceptance phone call or email, or multiple meetings with your rehabilitation counselor may seem overwhelming. Approval processes for participating in a study program or receiving a given allotment of funds

may seem glacial in its movement. Then again, spend time overhearing lunchtime conversations at a local diner, listen in on someone venting while getting their hair cut or as they begin working with a trainer at your local gym. You’ll find out that people everywhere endure the routine of hurry-up and wait. Automated and even paper forms are normal for anyone doing intake at a job or getting some vocational assistance. In other words, going through said processes means that we become like anyone else while being accommodated.

Maybe, taking advantage of these opportunities will not only narrow the acceptance gap between the mainstream society and many in the blindness community, it will give us further avenues to be contributing members of society through self-employment.

2. When your application or inquiry for services is answered in the affirmative, it means that a foundation or fund sees something in you that deserves their investment. Maybe, that long process of paperwork and forms along with some vocational testing has revealed your spirit of leadership. Maybe, you show an aptitude for organization. In either case, take encouragement from that. Of course, it’s not time to suddenly go gung ho by either overloading someone’s inbox or playing the “undeserving” recipient card. From the response you’ve been given, you may have an understanding of the potentially employable skills you have. Use them in the process.

3. Gratitude and a forward-looking posture is key. You don’t have to have that answer to the question: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” But you have the impetus to begin building your idea and planning to get your desire off the ground. You have time to start asking others who are blind questions about their experiences of breaking into the job market or pursuing self-employment.

In any case, embrace the financial, vocational and personal opportunities that come to your attention with healthy discernment. Inquire, calculate, and keep a clear head so that putting that goal in front of you will drive you to the ends you long for.

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