If you're a disabled entrepreneur, there are some fantastic disability business grants that can help you start or grow your business.
While there may not be large number of programs available, there's a good mix of programs, from grants for disabled entrepreneurs to tax deductions for creating accessibility.
Plus, you can take advantage of these programs on top of the financial incentive programs for all entrepreneurs that we cover in other articles on this site.
Federal Incentives for Disabled Entrepreneurs
The government of Canada has more financial incentive programs to help disabled Canadians than any other level does. The best part is, since we know disabilities can be both physical and mental, these programs cover all the bases and can help you start your own business, hire a disabled employee, or create a product or space to help those living with disabilities.
Federal Grants for Disabled Entrepreneurs
Nonprofit groups in the agricultural industry can use this program to help those they represent, such as those in the industry with disabilities. This funding could help those folks address the barriers they usually face when trying to achieve their business goals.
Nonprofit groups in this case are defined as Canadian associations, Indigenous groups, or Official Language Minority Communities that can enter into legally binding agreements.
Your group could get up to $200,000/year in funding or up to $1 million over 5 years when you take part in this program. That could help a lot of disabled entrepreneurs!
Act quickly though because the program stops taking applications on September 30, 2022, and closes completely on March 31, 2023.
Applying is easy enough too. All you have to do is complete the application form after you download it, then submit it online with your supporting documents. Easy right?
Here’s the supporting documents you’ll need to send in with your application:
While this isn’t a program for disabled entrepreneurs, it could help indirectly by encouraging businesses to develop new and better assistive and adaptive digital devices and technologies so those with disabilities can better participate in the digital economy.
So, if you know a for-profit, nonprofit, or research institution—or are one yourself—working on a project like this, apply for funding, or tell them about this funding, now because it’s not open much longer. It closes permanently in 2022 and all projects have to be completed by then.
The catch, though, is that your project will be expected to meet these outcomes to qualify for funding:
If your project, or one you know of, fits this criteria, the program could fund up to $4 million per project per year, and you can stack this funding with other government funding up to 100% of project costs.
Applications for the next intake open soon, so get ready now. The next intake is June 2, 2020, and then there are 2 more after that: January 2, 2021, and June 2, 2021.
To apply, just submit your name and contact information online to request an application package.
Otherwise, if you’d just like more information for now, send them an email or give them a call at 1-800-328-6189.
Federal Loans for Disabled Entrepreneurs
This is a funding program for entrepreneurs that takes into account the fact that disabilities take many forms, both physical and mental.
If you have a great idea for a business or a place to showcase your product or service, if you’re young or old, if you’re just starting out or need to get to the next level and won’t qualify for funding with a traditional lender, this program is definitely for you.
But wait. You’ll also need to self-identify as having a mental health issue or addiction challenges to qualify. As such, this unusual funding organization takes into account your character and commitment along with traditional criteria when considering your application.
They have a few programs to take advantage of, some across the country and some only in Ontario, so take a look through and see what works for you. If you feel like you just want to know more first before diving in, you can send them an email or give them a call at 1-855-464-RISE (7473). But don’t wait too long because they’ll be taking applications in spring 2020!
This one is a great loan program to help you get your new business off the ground or take it to the next level. You can also use it to finance showing off your product or service at an even such as a trade show or festival.
You could borrow as much as $10,000 at a low interest rate of prime + 2.5% with this one and get, on average, 3 years to pay it back. You’ll even get 30 days before your first payment is due. Mentorship and resources are also part of the package once you’re accepted.
You can apply at any time, and the program is open to all entrepreneurs across Canada (citizens and permanent residents) who are self-employed or have a small business, aren’t in active bankruptcy or behind on child support or government payments, and meet the additional criteria listed earlier.
If this sounds like you, all you have to do to apply is fill out the online application along with a business plan, a 1-year cash flow projection, resume, a credit report, and any other requested supporting documents.
Are you serious about starting a business or expanding one? Are you between 16 and 29? If you said yes to both of these and you meet the rest of the criteria listed earlier, such as self-identifying with a mental illness or addiction challenge, then try this program.
As long as you’re a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and located in Ontario, this program will give you access to free workshops and free coaching over the course of the 3-month program. You’ll attend, on average, 2 workshops a week with the end goal of creating a solid business plan and sharp, effective pitch.
This program will leave you with all the tools, strategies, and concepts you’ll need to run a successful business. On top of all that, you even get to borrow a laptop from them for the whole course of the program.
And the best part? Once you graduate, you’ll be able to access their small business financing, and you’ll get to choose between keeping that laptop you borrowed or a $500 grant. What are you waiting for?!
If perhaps you aren’t quite ready to go full speed ahead with lots of in-person workshops and building a business plan and such, give this program a shot. It’ll still give you access to their small business financing but without the same dedicated time commitment.
This one offers a combination of online learning modules with just 4 in-person workshops rather than 3 months worth of in-class learning. You’ll still get mentoring and coaching and access to networking so you can learn valuable business skills.
When you’ve completed the program, you’ll even get a $300 grant to get started, and you can apply for their small business loan if you still need a bit more funding.
This program tours around Canada to give the whole country an opportunity to take advantage of its benefits. Classes are currently ongoing in Edmonton but keep checking back to see where the next locations will be now that they’ll be accepting applications again in spring 2020.
This is much the same as the previous 2 entrepreneur education programs except that you’ll learn the skills you’ll need to run your business successfully in small groups of 2 to 6 people.
You’ll still get training and coaching, and by the end, you’ll have a good, solid business plan, which will be invaluable as you continue to operate your business. You can even access their small business financing once you’ve finished the program. Plus, as with the other programs, you’ll get to choose between keeping your borrowed laptop and a $300 grant when you graduate.
Apply now for fall classes in Toronto or Mississauga if you’re interested!
Federal Tax Credits for Disabled Entrepreneurs
You can use this deduction to ease the cost of hiring someone living with a disability in Canada, regardless of whether you’re a disabled entrepreneur yourself or not.
Any modifications you had to make to your business to accommodate a disabled employee qualifies, such as installing hand-activated power door openers or visual fire-alarm indicators. Even disability-specific hardware and/or software counts so take advantage of it this year.
Alternatively, you could make the necessary modifications now in preparation for hiring a disabled worker and claim it next year. That way, you’ll get some fabulous talent you otherwise wouldn’t have had access to, plus you’ll contribute to lessening Ontario’s unemployment rate!
All you have to do is enter your total in the Other Business Expenses section of your tax return, whether corporate or personal.
Ontario Incentives for Disabled Entrepreneurs
There may be only one program to participate in right now with the recent cutbacks in the provincial government, it’s a fantastic, all-inclusive program that you should squeeze as much as you can out of. And you never know, more programs may open in the future, so check back often.
And hey, the beauty of our Canadian system is that governments are always changing!
Ontario Grants for Disabled Entrepreneurs
Disabled entrepreneurs lucky enough to live in Ontario have access to a unique, multilayered funding program.
This program offers financial help to help you start a business and covers such things as equipment, business tools, supplies, licences, and certifications. The amount you’ll get is determined on a case-by-case basis, so you’ll only know how much financial assistance you can get once you discuss your plans with your local Ontario Disability Support Program office.
But that’s just the beginning. While funds are integral to starting any business, so is coaching, training, mentoring, networking, and professional advice. This program can offer all that, so take advantage of it to give yourself the best possible odds of success.
Work with their knowledgeable professionals to develop and implement a business plan, which is your foundation. Get free training in money management, budgeting, and record keeping. Learn valuable marketing insights and skills. Work with mentors to learn more about how to successfully run a business day to day and get any and all work-related disability supports you might need such as an interpreter or technical equipment.
All you have to do to learn more about the program and/or determine what works best for you is to get in touch with a Ontario Disability Support Program service provider and put together a strong case!
Now do you qualify? Of course you do if you live in Ontario, have a substantial physical or mental disability expected to last a year or more that makes it hard for you to get or keep a job, are at least 16, and are legally allowed to work in Canada. Simple!
You can apply whenever you’re ready, just be sure to download, print off, and fill out the Application for Employment Supports, and if you don’t currently receive benefits from the Ontario Disability Support Program, the Verification of Disability/Impairment that you’ll need to sign and then take to your health provider. Then mail those to your local Ontario Disability Support Program service provider.
The Bottom Line
So you might be thinking the number of funding programs available to help disabled entrepreneurs is rather dismal, but that’s really not the case. Not only can you take advantage of one or more of the programs listed here, but you can add that funding to any other, more general, entrepreneur financial incentive programs at any level.
And if you’re really creative, perhaps you can even add more funding programs if you’re a woman, you’re young, you operate for or within the Francophone community, or you operate in a specific field such as clean tech or exporting.
So keep pushing on your quest to successfully start, run, or grow your business and gather together as much funding from different sources as you can. You never know how much you can amass!
Maurice (Moe) Muise learned the ins-and-outs of government while an employee of the Government of Canada in Ottawa for 10 years. His current focus is helping small businesses in Ontario to identify and maximize government grants to grow their business.
Click here to learn more about Moe’s background and how he can help your business.