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Changing the norm of disability in entrepreneurship

In France today, there are still many stigmas surrounding disability. We had the pleasure of welcoming Jeanne Vermeersch, head of communications at La Ruche. She moderated a round table on disability withEvelyne Cormier, Anne-Laure Baudrillart and Julie Pro, co-founders of HASC, as well as Pauline Arnaud-Blanchard and Laura Verlhac of H’UP entrepreneurs. They shared their views on the difficulties faced by people with disabilities in entrepreneurship. At La Ruche, we believe that anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur can do so, regardless of their origin, their social level, their location or their gender.

This article is a transcript of their performance, and you can follow the video replay with the link available at the bottom of the article.

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Table ronde de Startup Safari

Is entrepreneurship the only way to get a real income and a real job?

Entrepreneurship is a real vehicle for a dynamic and fulfilling working life for people with a disability. It can also be seen as a sustainable path or a transitional path. But access to entrepreneurship is a real equal opportunity issue. There are still obstacles and discrimination in this area. A person with a disability has a lot of difficulties to go through administrative procedures.

This is by no means the only way to get started and have a fixed salary. It is true that entrepreneurship has advantages in the way of working. You can feel comfortable and have a lot of freedom to work from home. However, not everyone has the soul of an entrepreneur. Being disabled requires special support. There are employment incentive policies that allow people with disabilities to access salaried employment in order to be better supported, but this is not enough.

Entrepreneurship is complicated and impossible for a person with a disability

No, it is not impossible but rather complicated. If you have the will to go through the difficulties, you will probably become an entrepreneur.

On this subject, Julie, who has had a lot of experience in entrepreneurship despite her handicap, also said that it is not impossible because there are more than 70 thousand handicapped entrepreneurs in France. So this shows that it is not impossible but there are certainly difficulties to consider. That’s why there are associations to help them.

75% of the companies created by people with disabilities survive the 3-year period. They are therefore considered to be sustainable. Pauline thinks that people with disabilities are resilient with their situation. They adapt with everything and they always try to move forward, and this is the state of mind of an entrepreneur.

Before undertaking, you must accept your handicap

It was complicated for Julie and Evelyne to accept their disability. But after reflection, Julie finds that it has allowed her to be where she is now. She was a salaried executive assistant. But because of her handicap, she became an entrepreneur.

Anne-Laure was also employed in a company for 10 years. Later she discovered that this was not what she wanted to do. She wanted a job where she would be in contact with customers. Her manager suggested that she go into entrepreneurship because she was very comfortable with her disability. But she didn’t realize her abilities. In the end, this adventure allowed her to accept her disability even more. Before she became an entrepreneur, she would not accept going out with a white cane. But since becoming an entrepreneur, she is comfortable with the cane and feels accepted.

The challenge for entrepreneurs is to manage to harmoniously reconcile the disability and the obstacles of running a business. This is why Pauline calls upon the collective to allow entrepreneurs to exchange with each other on the challenge and the impact of their disability on their activity. She also uses coaching to help people to have a good psychology.

Is a good handicap a hidden handicap? To be successful, do you have to hide your handicap?

One may think that the best thing is to hide one’s disability. You may do this for a long time thinking that it is an advantage, but it is the opposite effect. It can cause misunderstanding from the people you work with. You may have an unmanageable task because of your disability. At this point, your manager may blame you for hiding your disability. You need to talk about it.

When she was a young graduate, Anne-Laure was not at all willing to put on her resume that she was disabled, for fear that she would be discriminated against. But she was obliged to talk about it during interviews because her disability required a job accommodation. If the recruiters are open-minded and think that she is competent for the position she is going to have, they will adapt the position to her situation.

There are already things that are put in place by the State for the professional integration of these people. But despite this, there are still other gaps.

Does the State financially support entrepreneurs with disabilities?

There are several aids for people with disabilities but they have not benefited from them. Evelyne indicated that they are committed to the values they defend. They chose the social and solidarity economy, because it corresponds to their own values. They created a for-profit company in order to earn a decent salary. It is not to be miserable in order to get funding from the state. Moreover, they are entrepreneurs before being disabled. We should not count on these aids to undertake. However, they are welcome even if there are difficulties in obtaining them.

Here is the link of the video of their passage.

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