People of determination make up 15 percent of the world's population. That's over 1 billion individuals who require assistance, support, or specialized technology and equipment to help them throughout their daily lives.
It is important to acknowledge the many centers, schools, and organizations that work with and for people of determination. What's of greater importance, however, is the collective work invested in incorporating this large group into society and the workforce.
"What could be more empowering than starting our own business? It's a chance to follow an old dream, be your own boss, achieve financial success and more," Jose Rubinger Filho, Chief Commercial Officer and Co-founder at Key2Enable Assistive Technology, explained.
Key2Enable, founded in the U.S. in 2018 as the headquarters of the Brazilian company that initially developed various assistive projects, caters to people of determination who are unable to use computers and mobile devices due to motion limitations or lack of fine motor coordination. It provides innovative tools such as the Key-X keyboard for accessing computers, learning, and communicating. Key-X comes with an educational platform for school inclusion, rehabilitation, and integration, capable of developing the motor and cognitive skills of students and patients with physical and intellectual disabilities.
To Mr. Rubinger Filho, there's exclusion from the public sphere and a lack of empathy towards people of determination in many places around the world, which "creates barriers that prevent those with impairments from becoming an integral part of society." Nevertheless, such attitudes can potentially push these individuals towards entrepreneurship.
"The proof is that we have many entrepreneurs being recognized by their unique ideas around the world," he argued. "One of them is inside Key2Enable. The idea behind the combination of colors and symbols of our keyboard, which we call Key-x, was first developed by Gleison Fernandes. This computer scientist was born with cerebral Palsy and came up with the idea to improve the way he could use his computer," Mr. Rubinger Filho further elaborated.
It's rather easy and straightforward to cling to what we know and are used to instead of looking for solutions for what we ignore. In the entrepreneurial sphere, there is no normalcy or constant as the ecosystem shifts and is faced with novice obstacles day in, day out. In addition, a portion of founders and CEOs focus on generating profit and minimizing risks while paying less attention to the impact they have on society.
"If you continue to invest in companies whose founders look the same as they always have and focus on solving the problems of the people that they always have, your results (and your returns) will not hold up to the coming changes because the world is shifting under your feet," Roberto Croci, Managing Director, Microsoft for Startups, Middle East and North Africa, told StepFeed.
"By cultivating a pipeline of diverse entrepreneurs and rigorously screening them, we aim to drive investment in startups with the greatest potential to create and deliver returns with impact. Impact that is funding the types of founders who will create new companies where diversity comes from the top," Mr. Croci further explained while emphasizing Microsoft's willingness to guarantee higher levels of inclusion for people of determination.
Medea Nocentini, Co-Founder and CEO at C3, a UAE-based social enterprise helping entrepreneurs in the Middle East unlock their growth potential and maximize their positive impact on the community, shared an opinion close to that of Mr. Croci.
"Businesses can serve people of determination with products and services, they can employ them or include them in their activities. There are so many different ways to support and include the segment in business and commercial activities," Ms. Nocentini suggested.
When push comes to shove, though, people of determination have the option of delving into entrepreneurship and becoming their own boss.
"Motor disabilities are no longer an impediment to any entrepreneurial activity, as technology is supplying all sorts of support and enhancing solutions. Cognitive disabilities might create challenges to start entrepreneurial activities, but it really depends on the type and the degree of the challenges," Ms. Nocentini said.
If you're not a business owner, you're an employee, and if you're neither, you're unemployed, voluntarily or not. Having disabilities can cause the latter case: Involuntary unemployment.
When hiring managers consider a candidate for a vacant role, the lack of quota imposed by governments and eagerness to hire people of determination can greatly impact employers' decisions. If a company is not properly equipped to support the often marginalized group nor willing to change its approach, non-disabled candidates will frequently fill the position.
"Essentially, there is nothing that differentiates a POD [person of determination] from others in the job market but businesses and organizations hold the true power to foster that change where inclusion is a generalized behavior at workplaces," Hafsa Qadeer, Co-Founder at Inclusive, an online platform based in the UAE that connects people of determination with accessible opportunities and events, explained.
According to Ms. Qadeer, no true differences can be found among job seekers. "We may prefer work from home during some days based on our personal lifestyles, utilize different learning techniques, have our own likes and dislikes with working patterns, and request these accommodations directly from our recruiters who select our profiles," she argued.
"Similarly, recruiters need to understand the accessibility accommodations required for the job seeker to excel in their role and create an accessible environment for them. Difference arises in opportunities opened for job seekers based on the hiring organization's culture, inclusivity, learning and development.
There is always a choice that an organization has: am I offering accessible opportunities? Recruiters must ask themselves, could this opportunity be considered mobility-friendly, hearing-friendly, cognitive-friendly, provide visual aids or more?" Ms. Qadeer further explained.