(Washington, DC) — U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship (SBC), and U.S. Senator Mike Braun, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, today introduced the bipartisan Supporting Disabled Entrepreneurs Act. It directs the Small Business Administration (SBA) to designate a Coordinator for Disabled Small Business Concerns and to collect data, on a voluntary basis, on the disability status of small business owners participating in SBA programs.

“Entrepreneurs with disabilities start small businesses, create jobs and ensure our local economies thrive. Through this bipartisan legislation, we will help them access the necessary resources to start and expand their small businesses,” said Chair Shaheen. “Innovators who are disabled deserve equal access to SBA programs that can support their dreams of owning and operating a successful business. I'm proud to introduce this important legislation that reaffirms our support and opens the door to opportunity.”

“For a growing number of working-age adults with disabilities, the establishment of small businesses has become an important and exciting path to participate in our country’s economic growth and improve their own economic stability and security,” said Thomas Foley, Executive Director of National Disability Institute. “We must continue to support this growing sector of the business economy with the right tools and resources to match the talents, ambition and potential of small business owners with disabilities.”

In the United States, one in four people live with disabilities. They face unique obstacles to employment, including workplace accessibility and social stigma. Nearly eight in ten individuals with a disability were outside of the labor force in 2022.

According to a report by National Disability Institute, approximately 1.8 million individuals with disabilities are business owners. Entrepreneurship offers an alternative path to traditional employment for individuals with disabilities. To achieve economic prosperity and independence, Americans living with a disability turn to self-employment and small business development at a rate that is nearly twice that of people without disabilities. Several barriers persist for this community in starting and growing their own businesses, including a lack of targeted technical and programmatic assistance as well as outdated attitudinal norms.

To address these barriers, the Supporting Disabled Entrepreneurs Act directs the SBA to:

  • Establish a Coordinator for Disabled Small Business Concerns at the agency;
  • Collect voluntary demographic data from program applicants on disability status; and
  • Publish data on the participation of disabled entrepreneurs in SBA programs.

Bill text is available here.

The National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal advisory agency, confirmed that the Supporting Disabled Entrepreneurs Act is consistent with the agency’s prior advisement.

This bill is endorsed by National Disability Institute, 2Gether-International, Gallaudet University and the Gallaudet Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute, Disability:IN, American Association of People with Disabilities, National Down Syndrome Congress, National Federation of the Blind, Prosperity Now, National Small Business Association, America’s Small Business Development Center Network, Association of Women’s Business Centers, Association for Enterprise Opportunity, Melwood, Alliance for Expanding America’s Workforce, CEO Commission for Disability Employment, Autism Society of America, National Down Syndrome Society, Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, UNH Institute on Disability, NH Council on Developmental Disabilities and Disability Rights Center - NH.