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Networking For People With Disabilities - 5 Tips For Business Owners

If you'd read some our previous blogs, you'll already know that, as a business, we're proud to be a 'Committed' Disability Confident organisation.

We're passionate about working with start-ups and small businesses, but equally keen to help those who may be living with a long-term disability and still want to be part of something great.

If you don't get to work for an organisation like us, then for those with a disability, starting and running a business can be a great career move. Having more control on the work you can do and the hours you can work gives you a sense of freedom you won't get any other way.

Not being at the mercy of employers who may discriminate against you, not respect or understand your circumstances or what you can bring to their table when hiring can be a huge plus.

Even if you do start your own business, the challenges don't stop there. The business world is fraught with events and social situations you would ideally avoid in your personal life.

When it comes to meeting peers and like-minded individuals to discuss opportunities, networking, even without a disability, can be daunting.

If you do have a disability, physical or mental, visible or not, meeting other business owners can be even tougher, but it doesn't have to be.


As you would expect, there isn't one reason which makes networking a challenge for all disabled entrepreneurs.

It could be that any social event takes extra time to prepare for, travel to or even just to attend in person. It's not like when you're running a business you're blessed with an extra ordinate amount of time in the first place.

Often it's the building that the event is being held in that isn't particularly well suited for disabled people, or there could be issues around parking or public transport may not be available close by.

We're also coming off the back of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whilst most people are carrying on as normal, it hasn't gone away and increasingly people are still wary about attending public events. Disabled people are often extra cautious because of their need to shield themselves because o their increased risk.

With all that said, if you are ready to get dive in, we've put together 5 tips to help anyone with a disability to get out there and network with the best of them! Let's start with....


Running any business is an exhausting experience and if you have a disability, then it's important that you're realistic about the affect it can have on you.

Networking, or any social gathering, can be particularly draining on you so it's vital that you set realistic goals about what you can and can't do. If you can only spend an hour there, then let the host know beforehand (if necessary).

If there's a timetable of events with guest speakers or other activities going on at the event, you might want to think about arriving later to make sure you don't miss them (or arrive early so you do!).

Whilst the opportunity to meet new contacts and potentially make new deals is great, if that exertion means you'll spend the next day recovering in bed, then you have to ask whether it's worth it.

Instead of trying to collect as many business cards as you can as quickly as you can, instead try and focus on finding the 2-3 people who you can really connect with and might best present the opportunity to build a professional relationship with.

It's equally important whilst networking that you understand how your disability might impact you in certain situations.

If it's the first time you're attending an event or going to that venue, then you may not appreciate what you're going to be dealing with, so set yourself some realistic goals around what you can manage, and what you can't.


Whether you're planning to do your networking in-person or online, for most of us there's a social anxiety that comes with meeting with new people.

Many of us will feel anxious, awkward, nervous and extra self-conscious when put into these social situations that expect us to act in a certain way.

If you're disabled and appear different to the social norm, then this can make meeting people even harder. This might mean that we don't project ourselves in the best light or say the right thing when meeting new people.

To help alleviate this, it can be a good idea to practice your introductions and conversation starters with people you know already, i.e. friends, family, colleagues, etc.

This can help you hone how you're going to introduce yourself, how to answer those common questions you might be asked and, if networking virtually, to make sure any video conferencing software works as you'd expect.

If you use any adaptive equipment like wheelchairs, hearing aids, etc, this 'dry run' can also be beneficial and help you understand how much assistance you may or may not need.

Having a practice can help you feel more comfortable and be able to anticipate common questions for when you do end up meeting and interacting with other people in a more formal environment.


For those with obvious disabilities, feeling self-conscious is often par for the course.

Anything that makes you stand out, especially in public and at networking events where you have to interact with people you may not know, can be a fairly negative experience.

If that's you, then attending events where looking at each other plays a huge part, it's time to turn that negative into a positive!

In a sea of grey suits, carefully manicured hairstyles and fake, insincere smiles, standing out from the crowd can actually be bonus. When people see you for who you really are, they will be more likely to engage with you.

Now you've got your intro perfected, are oozing confidence and have small talk to-die-for thanks to that practice, those interpersonal skills are going to be a boon for networking.

If you can cut through those difficult moments with a joke, or put people at ease by making light of your disability, you can be the bigger people and burst those awkward silences.

Those with disabilities should ABSOLUTELY not be ashamed of who they are or the impairments they're living with, so it's time to find ways you make them into a positive difference between you and everyone else there.

Stand out for all the right reasons and you'll see the impact it can have.


If, at the end of the day, you decide that in-person networking has too many obstacles to overcome or it just isn't practical for you, then you can still try networking online.

Technology has created a wealth of options for you to network virtually, whether that's through social media or video conferencing software like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or FaceTime.

For online networking to be effective, you'll need to hone your personal communications strategy and connect to the right people.

That's a fancy way of saying that your online presence needs to reflect you in the most professional way to help you stand out and be taken seriously. This will usually mean optimising your website (if you have one) or, more commonly, your social media accounts.

When it comes to business networking, it's more likely you'll need to utilise more business-focussed platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, rather than the more social-leaning Facebook or TikTok, but you do you!

Before you dive in, make sure your own profile page is up-to-date and reflects you in the best light.

Take some time to find the best image of you and, if you're using LinkedIn, make sure your profile, including your employment history, is complete.

If you can get some recommendations from people you've worked with in the past, even better. Putting yourself in a virtual shopwindow means you need to everything looking its best.

As you're going to use these networks to reach out to other business leaders directly, then it's worth remembering that these are busy people and will likely get loads of emails, DMs and social media introductions every day.

If you want yours to stand out for the right reasons, then you need to create something personal and highlight how working with you will benefit you both.

They won't respond to spam or generic words that are just copy and pasted ad infinitum. To help you craft an engaging message, do some research.

If you're sending a message to someone, take some time to read their profile, look at their career, see what their interests are, make note of their experiences and where their expertise lies.

Having an understand of who they are will help you relate to them and they'll be more likely to reply.


Whether you have a disability or not, starting a new enterprise is something many people have done already, so there will be a multitude of organisations out there willing to help you with dedicated business advice, funding / grants, mentoring, training and more.

If you're already running a business then we're sure you have researched them already, but if it's something you're looking into then this should be part of your planning and due diligence process.

We've tried list a few of these organisations below, but understand we're not endorsing any of them.

There will be many more who offer more general business development advice to everyone, but these listed are specifically focussed on disabled entrepreneurs.

Take a look at them and judge for yourself. Hopefully at least one will be new or useful to you.

Whilst we're based in the UK, we recognise we get visitors to our website from around the world so we've tried to list a few international organisations too.

  • Business Disability Forum - The BDF work in partnership with business, Government, and disabled people to remove barriers to inclusion.

  • Scope - Lots of great advice and resources for disabled people.

  • Federation of Small Business - They have a 'Business Without Barriers' scheme to help disabled entrepreneurs and lots of other great resources on their website.

  • Respect Ability - A US-based diverse, disability-led nonprofit that works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities.

  • American Association of People with Disabilities - Increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities and provide advice, scholarships and internships to their members.

  • Disability:IN - Another US-based organisation offering support and advice to disabled business owners. They also offers an accreditation plan called Disability-Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE) certification for businesses that are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by a someone with a disability.

  • 2Gether International - They support disabled founders by connecting them with the resources they need to create thriving high growth, high impact startups.

If there are any we've missed that you think we should include, leave their details in the comments.

There may also some more locally-focussed business advice organisations where you live which may also be able to help. A quick Google search will help you find them.


There you have it, our 5 tips to help disabled entrepreneurs network like champions. As we touched upon at the beginning, we understand that networking, at the best of times, can a challenging activity to 'enjoy'.

Awkward conversations and polite small talk over luke-warm coffee with strangers in a magnolia room often achieves little, but there's always a chance you'll find someone that changes your business for the better, but it's easier said than done.

Combine that with feelings of social anxiety and that uncomfortable sense that comes with putting yourself out there makes it a necessary evil for many business owners. That said, with practice you can turn it into an art form.

Any entrepreneurs, whether they have a disability or not, need to maximise their opportunities, especially in this economic climate, will include some networking, but if you have a disability, you need to be open and honest about your health conditions.

It's important though that you embrace who you are and what you can do, rather than blend into a perceived profile of what people think of as a successful entrepreneur.

Embrace your uniqueness and the diversity you can bring. Do this and you will be achieving everything you want to and the business world will open up for you.


We hope that through this blog post that we've helped you and given you some inspiration to help you embrace networking. Is there any we've missed that you think we should have included? Have you got any tips of your own that have worked particular well for you? Let us know in the comments below.

If you know of any other organisations that can help disabled business owners other than the ones we've listed, please let us know in the comments so we can update it.

We post new blogs every week so please consider following us on social media (links at the top and bottom of the page) or sign-up to our newsletter to be kept up-to-date with everything we've got going on. We'd really appreciate it.

Original blog photo courtesy of Elevate on Unsplash

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