Disability, Poverty do You have to Choose?

It’s easy to become discouraged when we, as a collective body of advocates for economic equality for individuals with disabilities, read the current statistics regarding their employment, benefits, and government supports – or lack thereof. The closing of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Federal Employment Guidance Services not only minimizes resources for individuals with disabilities but for thousands of others who are economically disadvantaged. It’s pretty hard to swallow when, in fact, we have first-hand experience in the benefit of supports to help inform and engage individuals who need a hand up, not a hand out.

At The Abilities Fund, we experience daily the advances made by the talented entrepreneurs with whom we have the good fortune to serve. People with disabilities are incredibly, naturally entrepreneurial. With a little guidance and a dose of “you need to do this for yourself,” they move ahead at a rate that is impressive, to say the least. Yes, disability remains present. No, it does not impede them. As we always say, the only thing we cannot support at The Abilities Fund is…an infeasible business idea. Success doesn’t have a thing to do with disability and disability doesn’t have to prevent success.

In a blog from our friends at RespectAbility.org, ‘Painful Lessons about Poverty and Disability,’ Executive Director Jennifer Laslo Mizrahi reviews the sad truth about the impact of closing the doors on FEGS. As you read, keep in mind the number of Americans who will lose what is one of the best resources we have in the US not to mention the thousands of people who will become unemployed. We can’t overlook the 2,000 volunteers that have invested their time and talent to keep FEGS’ services at a level of quality that is off the charts. All in all, it is a hit that will be hard to take.

Yes, it’s easy to become discouraged – but we are trying to use that negative energy to fuel positive activism. At The Abilities Fund, we are committed to the economic advancement of people with disabilities and devoted to the fullest expression of their entrepreneurial spirit in all its diversity, strength and boundless originality. It’s who we are.

Thank you, RespectAbility.org, for keeping us informed.

Patti Lind
Executive Director
The Abilities Fund


  1. Daniella Goldstein says

    This a a very well written article and so true! I was rear-ended in August of 2009 and suffered extensive neck and back injuries. I tried to go back to work in January 2011, had to take 31 sick days in 3 month and was forced to resign. I am unable to even seek a part-time job because my back will not allow me to sit or stand for longer than half an hour to an hour in the same position. The only way out was to open my own small business. It allows me to work at my own pace. I tried to hang in there until I lost my house in the summer of 2012 and finally had to apply for Arizona assistance for food and medical benefits. My husband had to take early Social Security in order to care for me full time. My husband and me were forced to live in poverty and I finally realized that the only way I was going to get back into society, was to open my own small business. The enormous medical bills from the car accident forced us to file chapter 7 bankruptcy, our credit was ruined and when I tried to apply for business start-up loans, every lender denied me credit. I was finally able to open my remodeling business with other people’s money but I am running it on a shoestring budget. I am certain that my business will be successful, I am working almost 18 hours per day and I am lacking on sleep. It is worth it because I refuse to live in poverty. I have to say, it is almost impossible to start your own business when you are disabled and I was discouraged from time to time. My business is now open for two weeks, I live in a fifth wheel, when it rains, water pours from the ceiling and I have to hurry up and move our clothes away from the leaks. I am looking forward to a new fifth wheel, a little bit bigger than our 27 foot long we currently live in with no holes in the roof! I know I can do it! With the help of my husband, which has always been there for me. To all people with disabilities: “Don’t give up, you can do it! Believe in yourself!”

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