People with disabilities, be it mental or physical, can have a hard time entering the workforce. And if they do, their job choices are often limited.

But a new program from the University of Illinois at Chicago aims to provide people with disabilities the entrepreneurship training they need to enter the business world.

Thanks to a $300,000 grant from the Coleman Foundation, a UIC program will offer a tailored business program that expands career options for people with disabilities. With more than 600,000 disabled people living in Chicago, many of which utilizing job placement programs that don’t take the person’s interests into account, UIC sees their program as a chance to give people more control over their future.

“Imagine being told as young as 16, 17 or 18 years old that you might love gardening, but we’re going to put you in a workshop packing boxes instead,” Sarah Parker Harris, associate professor of disability and human development at UIC, said in a statement. Parker Harris is also a co-principal investigator on the grant.

People from the disabled community, service agencies and small business development agencies will all have input in developing the program, UIC said, and disabilities service agencies will be given resources and training they need to connect clients with business services. And the researchers plan to develop a model that agencies across the US can replicate.

“This will be a unique opportunity for people with disabilities to access entrepreneurship,” added co-principal investigator Maija Renko, associate professor of managerial studies.

Too often businesses create jobs for people with disabilities, but don’t provide the training for those individuals to start companies of their own, Parker Harris said.

“What that doesn’t do is empower people with disabilities to actually be business owners themselves,” said Parker Harris. “We’ve seen people with disabilities create successful businesses.”

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