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Encouraging enterprise among disabled entrepreneurs

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E4E was launched in conjunction with a new report called the Barriers and Opportunities Report, which noted that 57 per cent of London’s 800,000 disabled people of working age are unemployed, owing to the fact that they struggle to find suitable working environments and face difficulties getting business advice that considers their specific needs.

E4E will help them overcome these hurdles through a series of workshops, accredited qualifications linked to an online learning programme and regular informal network meetings. The initiative will also equip business advisers and enterprise agencies to devise a range of strategies for clients who have sensory, physical, learning difficulties/disabilities and mental health issues.

Speaking at the launch was 47-year-old disabled entrepreneur Stephen Collins, whose parents were told he’d never be able to work or drive when he was born with cerebral palsy.

Today, Collins gets around in a Jaguar and runs Lazarus Mobility – a company he founded in 2006, which supplies aids for people with disabilities, including scooters, wheelchairs, walking frames and stair lifts. His website www.lazarusmobility.com can now take orders from all over the country for standard living aids, as well as new and innovative products not yet sold in the UK.

Collins’s business recently caught the attention of Dragons’ Den star Duncan Bannatyne. The two entrepreneurs struck a deal last week that will see Bannatyne throw his financial clout behind the business, as well as advise Collins on the PR and marketing for his company.

Collins’s ultimate plan is to create a number of regional megastores, offering a "one-stop shop" of equipment for people with disabilities.

“I am determined because I have had to be,” said Collins. “It took me seven months to open a business bank account. The bank just said: "Why do you want to open a bank account? Who is going to support you?" Just because my legs don’t work, it doesn’t mean my business can’t.”

And there were plenty of other successful entrepreneurs present who are living proof that disability should not be a deterrent to setting up your own business.

Just take a look at Debbie Reynolds, whose deafness prompted her to start the School of Sign Language, and Amar Latif, who scooped last year’s Stelios Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year award for setting up Traveleyes, a Leeds-based travel company specialising in holidays for visually impaired individuals set up in April 2005. 

After selecting him as the winner of the award, Sir Stelios was so impressed with Latif that they are now in talks about a possible collaboration between Traveleyes and easyCruise. 

As the old adage goes…he who dares, wins

For related articles, see Don’t discount the disabled

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