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  • Writer's picturePeta

Self Employment When You Have A Disability

Many of you will know by now Peta loves being self-employed.

With stats like disabled people are 40% more likely to be self-employed than non-disabled people, Peta wanted to better understand why that might be.

This episode explores being self-employed when you have a disability while also drawing on personal lived experiences. Peta of course shares what it is like for her to be self-employed but also is joined by the lovely Amber from Wheelie Good Perth. Amber is a disabled woman who runs a successful business auditing for accessibility.

Find out more about Wheelie Good Perth

Contact Peta

Instagram @petahooke

References for this episode

State and Territory Government support and programs


Episode Transcript:

Peta [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to the I Can't Stand Podcast. The podcast answering your questions on what life is like when you have a disability. My name is Peta. I'm your host. I have cerebral palsy and I love to answer your questions. This week is a bit of a different one. I really wanted to talk about self-employment and what it's like to be disabled and be self-employed. I have a little bit of experience with that now, but I thought it was important to also gain another person's point of view. So I'm also going to speak to the lovely amber from Wheelie Good Perth and integrate our conversation with a little bit of research I found about what it's like to be disabled and self-employed. OK, without any further ado, let's get into it.

[00:01:07] Whether you've struggled to find employment or you feel dissatisfied with your employment, you've experienced discrimination or you're one of the lucky ones that have a great employer that is really flexible to you and your needs. All of us in the disability community regardless, I think, have very valid opinions on how employment could be improved for people with disabilities. I've spoken about my experience before on this podcast about how difficult I found it in working in the corporate world. I done seven years in university thinking that working in corporate world with me. And after university, it took me five years to in fact figure out corporate life was not for me. To be honest, I don't think the greater business community realises that people with disabilities have the desire, the ability and are in fact running successful businesses today. Alongside this podcast, I am a disability advocate. I write, I use my voice. I, you know, for lack of a better word, I'm on Instagram and educate people of what it's like to live with a disability. That is my jam. I love what I do.

[00:02:39] As you all probably are aware, there are some still pretty widespread barriers for people with disabilities accessing employment, whether that be attitudinal discrimination, actual physical access, lack of access to education and low expectations. It's really difficult to get ahead in the business world if you have a disability. Many employers just have a lack of general awareness around disability and are therefore hesitant, I believe, to take many of us on as employees. I think many of us can sort of draw a short list of why disabled people start their own businesses. Firstly, there's a self belief that they can do it. They want to prove people wrong. I also think it's the fact that as a person with a disability, if you work for yourself, you are not going to experience discrimination, or at least not on a day to day basis, like you might in the corporate scape. There's also the knowledge that you don't have to feel like you have to fit in. You can just be yourself.

[00:04:06] Also, the fact that my workplace is completely accessible to make his my workplace is my home, I can take as many bathroom breaks as I need and I can turn the heater up as high as I need to manage my pain. I must acknowledge my main motivation for starting my business is to frankly try and get ahead. And while, yes, going up by yourself is very scary financially, very difficult, and I'm more likely to fail doing this than working for someone else, but I really do feel that since starting my own business for me personally, people are starting to see me for me and see my full potential. I have more opportunities now than I ever have. And it is so freeing to finally feel like I'm the person I'm supposed to be from a professional business perspective. And I've said this many times before, but it is important that I say it again. I am very privileged than I was in the position to be able to quit my job and start something new that is completely out of reach for many people. Working for yourself isn't for everyone. I completely respect that people are just happy to work hard and do well during work hours and then come home and enjoy their family.

[00:05:43] I've read a number of studies to give you a bit of context of what I'm talking about today. The University of Technology of Sydney and the National Disability Services set Settlement Services International. Goodness me, that is a mouthful conducted a study about disability and entrepreneurship. People with disabilities were 40 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-disabled people. A man that I've admired for many years from afar, his name's Simon Darcy, he's a disabled researcher himself. When he spoke about this study, he mentioned that many people with disabilities felt that they had no choice but to start their own business in order to work. And I certainly feel that myself. Things like being able to sit flexible hours and setting your own working conditions is very attractive. And also, the opportunity to directly give back to community I don't think can be undervalued. I love all and every single one of you that listen and follow me on Instagram. Every single message, every single writing and review means so much to me. And if I'm just making one little bit of impact. That's great. There's very little inclusive programmes that help people start their own business if you have a disability, a lack of mentor, a lack of tailored networks and a lack of educational opportunities for people with disabilities to start their own businesses. One of the biggest takeaways I've had since researching this topic is the more disabled entrepreneurs there are, the greater likelihood that in the future, people with disabilities will become employed and seen as equal in the workforce because disabled people are also likely to hire disabled people. There are a number of initiatives to help people start their own businesses, which are linked in the description, but it must be said. Many of these or all of these, to be frank, do not include people with disabilities. I found one programme, albeit, you know, my my research was not completely thorough, but I found one programme during my research run by the Makati Business School, and they run a self-employment community programme that helps underrepresented people with intellectual disabilities start their own business, which is such a great initiative. Absolutely fantastic.

[00:08:49] My last point is still very current for me, paid work can be still difficult to gain. For some reason. I have come across and many other people I've spoken to have come across this as well, that people. Expect disabled people to provide their work for free or for nominal amounts. It makes her a really difficult decision when I'm asked to do things for free. And I have a sneaking suspicion that people still assume that people with disabilities do things out of the kindness of our own hearts. And guess, like I would like to think that you all know that I do things, you know, with almost the utmost best intentions, but also. I don't want to do things for free all the time. I'd like to be financially secure.

[00:09:55] You will know my experience pretty well, I would say by now of what it's been like for me running my business with a disability. So I thought it was very important to provide another voice to this discussion. So I want to introduce you to Amber. Amber has her own business called Wheelie, as in the wheels on my wheelchair. Wheelie Good Perth.

Peta [00:10:23] Hi, Amber, thanks so much for being here today.

Amber [00:10:26] Hi, Peta. Thank you for having me. My name is Amber and I am the owner of Wheelie Good Perth, a Perth based business that goes around and accesses businesses and gives them audits.

Peta [00:10:42] You're preaching to the choir, of course, but how did you get into what what motivated you to do it?

Amber [00:10:48] Well, back in 2021, my dad passed away. He had a long battle with cancer, and then two months after that, my grandmother passed away. And I was in the depths of depression. It was horrible. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I needed to do something important, something that, you know, makes a difference in this world. And I wanted to make those people that had passed away, my dad and my grandmother proud. So I came up with this what I thought was a small idea that has just blossomed into this huge business. I'm just so stoked.

Peta [00:11:32] It's so fantastic, I know it can be so scary to take the leap and sort of say, if your idea has something to it, that's just, you know, more than just what you feel is correct to have people say, you know what, you're doing the right thing. What are those sort of key elements that you look for and what makes a good accessible restaurant or cafe?

Amber [00:11:56] A good, accessible cafe restaurant venue business overall is not just ramps and toilets. We need to be able to sit at the table with our friends and family. We need to be able to access the whole venue. We need to be feeling welcome in the venue. So from from the DOT, you need to have on your website, on your social media that you are accessible and so that we don't have to ring up and ask 50000 questions before we even arrive.

Peta [00:12:30] As a generalised statement, I don't think they see us as customers, because if they ask people without disabilities to come to their venue and go through the back pass bins or have to park a million miles away and get really, really soaking wet in the process or not being able to use the bathroom, they wouldn't ask that of people without disabilities, but for some reason they ask that of us.

Amber [00:12:56] That's exactly right, and for some reason they think it's acceptable. When it's not, it's 2022. It's time to change. It's time to become accessible.

Peta [00:13:08] For people who don't know, could you describe your disability?

Amber [00:13:12] I have Spinal Bifida and Hydrocephalus. So when I was born, I was born with a cyst on my back, on my spine, a spinal cord which affects everything, affects my walking, my bladder, my bowels, everything. And also the shunt is a device that drains fluid away from my brain because my body doesn't do that naturally. And that's the hydrocephalus water on the brain.

Peta [00:13:46] Has employment always been an issue for you, or were you one of the lucky ones in doing what you love all the way throughout your career and just done a little pivot?

Amber [00:13:58] No, I'm definitely not one of the lucky ones, unfortunately, it has taken me a long journey to get to where I am today. I wish I had done this straight out of school. I wish someone had said to me that it was an option to do it out of school. You know, the journey to get here was a difficult one. I was part of, you know, teams that didn't understand that I couldn't breach copyright machines and, you know, things that I know people can do without assistance. I couldn't do.

Peta [00:14:30] How has it impacted you starting your own business?

Amber [00:14:34] Oh, it is definitely made me a happier individual and I'm being more authentic to who I am, which is just fantastic when I'm going out and talking to everybody, people able bodied business owners showing them that I'm real, that I'm a person in a wheelchair, that these things that I'm talking about actually means something to me. It's just changed my world.

Peta [00:15:02] So for anyone that would be interested in working with you, Amber, how can they get in contact with you?

Amber [00:15:09] Well, they can reach out to me through my Instagram, @wheeliegoodperth. Or they can email me at And I'm happy to collaborate. I love to collaborate with businesses that want to be accessible. So just reach out. Let's have a chat and let's see what we can do. Let's make Perth the most accessible city in Australia.

Peta [00:15:33] I love that, thank you so much for talking to me today, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Amber [00:15:39] Thank you so much for having me, Peta and I'll talk to you soon.

Peta [00:15:43] Thank you for listening to this week's episode. I hope you enjoyed this sort of new version of the episode. I think Amber really illustrated, particularly the research. I think both our experiences were very in line with the research. And if you are a disabled person thinking about starting your own business, if you're in the position to do that, I say go for it. It's the best thing I've ever done. If you'd like to leave a rating and review, as I said earlier in the episode, I'd really appreciate it. Or if you could just share the episode on social media, it would mean so much to me. And until next week. Bye.


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