Disability Studies Quarterly
Fall 2006, Volume 26, No. 4
<www.dsq-sds.org>
Copyright 2006 by the Society
for Disability Studies


BOOK & FILM REVIEWS

Entrepreneurship, Self-Employment and Disabilities. (2002). [Videorecording.] Rural Institute on Disabilities, University of Montana. Distributed by Program Development Associates. Narrated by Cary Griffin.

Reviewed by Linda Holloway, University of North Texas

The film Entrepreneurship, Self-Employment and Disabilities offers the inspiring real-life stories of six entrepreneurs with disabilities who have established their own businesses. Narrated by Cary Griffin, director of special projects at the University of Montana Rural Institute, the film describes the businesses these individuals own and provides information on their funding sources, marketing, and other supports they needed to be successful.

Griffin does a nice job of framing the issue of self-employment and microenterprises. Contrary to popular belief, Griffin states that 79% of small enterprises succeed. He also notes that when the economy declines, self-employment increases. Currently, there are more than 20 million Americans working in home-based businesses, with 43% of those being microenterprises. For many people with disabilities, self-employment offers the opportunity for self-fulfillment and financial freedom. The purpose of the film is to highlight some of these individuals so that others might consider this as an option.

After laying the groundwork for the film, Griffin describes some of the funding mechanisms that were used to support the businesses. While he provides the definitions of the funding mechanisms, such as the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), Plans to Achieve Self-Sufficiency (PASS), and Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), there is not enough information for most who are not familiar with the programs. Another major issue is that the JTPA program is no longer in existence, so he attempted to explain that the Workforce Investment Act has replaced it. That effort is distracting at best and confusing at worst.

The first story, the story of Melissa Clark, is the most compelling and complete of the six stories featured in the film. Melissa, the owner of Lizzie's Luv Yums, makes homemade dog biscuits and other pet treats. She states that she has fetal alcohol syndrome and that part of her mission is to educate women about not drinking when they are pregnant. In fact, she has cleverly woven her pet advertisements into a Public Service Announcement on fetal alcohol syndrome. She is articulate and convincing in describing her business—I wanted to run out and by some Lizzie's Luv Yums and I don't even have a pet!

The film features five other individuals. In addition to describing their business, each person tells how he or she utilized public and private resources for funding and support. There are a variety of talented individuals who represent a wide array of businesses that include military miniature items, fish sales, copy services, computer electronics, and custom embroidery. Each story is unique and persuasive, allowing the individuals to do what they love, while getting the needed accommodations and support.

This film may offer some hope to people with disabilities who want to embark on a journey of self-employment. It might also be a tool to convince a skeptical VR counselor or potential financer to support an entrepreneur. A shortcoming of the film is that it doesn't address assistive technology in much detail nor does it fully describe other accommodations that self-employment allows, such as modified work hours or breaks.

The film is just over half an hour, but it seemed too long. If the purpose is to "energize viewers," as stated on the back cover, it misses the opportunity. It would have been more engaging if it were shorter and didn't even attempt to discuss the funding options. It feels a little like a promotion film for JTPA. In fairness to the producer, it clearly states that it is not intended to explain self-employment fully, but simply to get viewers excited about the possibility. A shorter version minus the complicated the funding descriptions might have better accomplished the mission.





Copyright (c) 2006 Linda Holloway



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