With an eye toward increasing employment opportunities, a new effort is looking to provide people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the tools to work for themselves.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago are developing a new program designed to help people with disabilities become entrepreneurs.

Organizers say the effort will bring together people with disabilities, service providers as well as members of the business community to establish a model that can be replicated across the country.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“Some people are just at the idea phase, and are often told ‘no’ before they can even begin because they have an intellectual or developmental disability,” said Sarah Parker Harris, associate professor of disability and human development who’s helping lead the project. “A lot of building success is connecting the right people.”

The effort will expand on a pilot project Parker Harris conducted in 2010 with Maija Renko, an associate professor of managerial studies. Ultimately, the researchers indicated that they plan to develop a training program that disability service providers can use to assess readiness for entrepreneurship and teach individuals everything from writing a business plan to networking and marketing.

By incorporating insights from those with disabilities and business leaders, the researchers said they hope to bridge both cultural and language gaps while also working to increase job prospects for a traditionally underemployed population.

“We’re trying push through not just the policy barriers and the systemic barriers, but some of the attitudinal barriers,” Parker Harris said.

Read more stories like this one. Sign up for Disability Scoop's free email newsletter to get the latest developmental disability news sent straight to your inbox.