A congress of disabled entrepreneurs and leading disability-focused organisations have joined forces to launch a ground-breaking campaign this Disability Pride Month.
The #Access2Funding campaign is calling on the venture capital and investment community to improve the representation, opportunities presented to and experience of disabled founders.
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.
It comes as over half (52%) of the 7.7million working disabled people in the UK reported they have faced barriers when applying for financial support despite disabled-owned small businesses accounting for 8.6 per cent of the turnover of all UK businesses* and 25% of small business owners identifying as disabled or having a health condition**.
Joseph Williams, Co-Founder of Clu and Founder of the #Access2Funding campaign comments on its importance: “As a disabled and neurodiverse entrepreneur, I’ve applied for funding from numerous ‘diversity-focused’ investors and have been told 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 diminished because of a lack of understanding of the value we bring. The #Access2Funding campaign will create a movement of focus and opportunity for our community and will shine a light on the vast inequality we face when it comes to realising our potential as entrepreneurs.”
Celia Hensman, the campaign’s Research Lead and Co-Founder and Director of The Disability Policy Centre, continues: “Why is it that, despite many of the greatest thinkers and creators of all time coming from disabled communities, we are still struggling to be taken seriously as entrepreneurs? Normalising disabled people being experts in subjects beyond being disabled is crucial to more money being invested in disabled entrepreneurs.”
Investors that commit to the #Access2Funding Pledge will send a clear message to disabled entrepreneurs 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 around diversity, equality and inclusion gets louder, we are still last at the table.”
“It’s a societal and systemic problem,’ adds Victoria. ‘The disabled community doesn’t have the same access to education and then to jobs, so they are just not seen. We are literally hidden away, as we have been historically. When the non-disabled don’t see us, they don’t consider us.”
“The lack of opportunity we are presented with when looking to maximise our potential and our businesses has gone unchallenged for too long. This must change.”
Check Warner, Partner at Ada Ventures, a Founding Signatory of the #Access2Funding Pledge, adds: “We are passionate about enabling talented people to realise their full potential by funding overlooked Founders. We believe bold ideas are the ones that change the world and this is why we wanted to be a part of #Access2Funding, because whoever the ideas come from is irrelevant if the idea is game changing.”
The full list of companies and supporting the #Access2Funding campaign are:
The Disability Policy Centre
Disability Rights UK
The Valuable 500