Disability Employment: Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship


close-up of hand on wheel of wheelchair


Many individuals with disabilities have difficulty securing and maintaining traditional job placements with an employer. For some, self-employment and entrepreneurship opportunities represent alternative employment and economic self-sufficiency strategies. For others, self-employment may offer more autonomy, a stronger sense of dignity or a greater opportunity to follow career aspirations.

There are numerous benefits of self-employment for vocational rehabilitation clients, including greater customization of the job and higher wages. States can support business owners with disabilities and individuals interested in self-employment by adapting existing business development policies and programs to be disability-inclusive. States can develop new policies to foster self-employment and entrepreneurship for people with disabilities. 

State Policy Options

A bipartisan task force of legislative and executive officials convened in 2016 to create a policy framework for supporting self-employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for people with disabilities.

Inclusive Workforce Development

States are encouraged to ensure that state workforce development systems support entrepreneurship and self-employment as viable employment options for people with disabilities. Steps states can take include:

  • Formalizing entrepreneurship and self-employment as a viable employment strategy for individuals with disabilities in state workforce service delivery.
  • Through education and outreach, positioning entrepreneurship and self-employment as possible career strategies for individuals with disabilities.

State Procurement, Business Certification and Financial Incentives

States can include businesses owned by people with diabilities in targeted state procurement, certification and financial incentive policies. Steps states can take include:

  • Exploring opportunities to support disability-owned businesses through existing procurement and contracting systems
  • Establishing a fast-tracked certification process for disability-owned businesses to gain access contract/vender opportunities and take advantage of procurement goals.
  • Exploring tax and financial incentive structures to support disability entrepreneurship start-up and/or growth.

Recent State Actions

Since 2016, at least 29 states have enacted legislation related to the policy options listed under the Supporting Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship section of the Work Matters Policy Framework. NCSL's disability employment legislative database features a comprehensive list of introductions and enactments. Included below are some of the legislative highlights:

Inclusive Workforce Development

Oklahoma HB 1969 (2015) requires state programs, policies, procedures and funding to support competitive integrated employment of individuals with disabilities; places self-employment under the definition of competitive employment.

Indiana SB 390 (2017) requires the development of a statewide plan to advance competitive integrated employment of individuals with disabilities, including the expansion of self-employment. 

State Procurement, Business Certification and Financial Incentives

Connecticut HB 7093 (2019) establishes a task force to study the expansion of existing employment assistance programs for persons with disabilities, including the financial incentives for businesses to employ more persons with disabilities.

Kansas HB 2044 (2019) creates an income tax credit of 15% for qualified business whose staff consists of at least 30% of employees with disabilities.


Saige Draeger is a research analyst in NCSL's Employment, Labor & Retirement program.

Additional Resources