The Congress of Disability Entrepreneurs and leading disability-focused organizations have joined forces to launch #Access2Funding, a groundbreaking campaign calling on the venture capital and investment community to improve the representation, opportunities and experience of founders with disabilities.
The campaign will also collect never-before-reported data on the current disparities and barriers disabled founders face when trying to grow their businesses, to produce a series of further recommendations for better economic participation.
This comes as more than half (52%) of the 7.7 million disabled people in work in the UK say they have faced barriers to applying for financial support despite small businesses owned by people with disabilities making 8.6% of all UK business turnover* and 25% of small business owners who identify as disabled or have a medical condition.
Joseph Williams, co-founder of Clu and founder of the #Access2Funding campaign comments: “As a disabled and neurodiverse entrepreneur, I have applied for funding from a number of ‘diversity focused’ investors and have been told all too often that disability is ‘not on the agenda’. ”
“For so long I have seen the astronomical potential of our creative, agile and highly skilled community diminish 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 shine a light on the huge inequality we face when it comes to realizing our potential as entrepreneurs.”
Celia Hensman, the campaign’s head of research and co-founder and director of the Center for Disability Policy, continues: “Why is it that, despite many of the greatest thinkers and creators of all time coming from disability communities, we still struggle to be taken seriously as entrepreneurs? Normalizing disabled people to be experts in fields outside of disability is key to getting more money invested in disabled entrepreneurs.”
Investors who commit to the #Access2Funding Pledge will send a clear message to entrepreneurs with disabilities that they are serious about setting them up for success and will become a leading light for access, diversity and inclusion in their sector.
Victoria Jenkins, who is also part of the campaign and founder of Unhidden Clothing, comments: “As the conversation about diversity, equality and inclusion grows louder, we are still the last at the table.”
“It’s a social and systemic problem,” adds Victoria. ‘The disabled community does not have the same access to education, and subsequently to jobs, so they simply do not see each other. We are literally hidden, as well as historically. When non-disabled people don’t see us, they don’t consider us.”
“The lack of opportunities presented to us when we want to maximize our potential and our business has gone unchallenged for too long. This has to change.”
Check Warner, Partner at Ada Ventures, founder and signatory to the #Access2Funding Pledge, adds: “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 a part of #Access2Funding, because whoever the ideas come from, it doesn’t matter if the idea is a game changer.”
Companies supporting the #Access2Funding campaign include Ada Ventures, Ascension, The Disability Policy Centre, Disability Rights UK, Meaningful Business, The Valuable 500 and Untapped.