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BBI meets with top White House staff on entrepreneurship for people with disabilities

April 04, 2011

Anthony Adornato
(315) 443-6173

On March 28, Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University Executive Director Michael Morris, Senior Vice President Gary Shaheen G’86, and BBI Board of Advisors member John Robinson ’90 met at the White House with Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy Kareem Dale, Senior Policy Advisor Doug Rand and two senior staff from the Rehabilitation Services Administration to discuss options for replication of BBI’s Start-Up NY/Inclusive Entrepreneurship program and greater involvement of individuals with disabilities in the new Startup America initiative.

Startup America, announced by the White House on Jan. 31, has two major goals: the removal of policy barriers that are holding back entrepreneurs, as well as small businesses, from growing the economy and creating new jobs; and second, building public-private partnerships that increase access to capital, education and capacity-building activities to stimulate small-business startups.

As an entrepreneur with a disability, Robinson shared his challenges in growing his business and the barriers of limited public awareness to the achievements of disabled business owners. Shaheen described the success of Start-Up NY/Inclusive Entrepreneurship, which has helped more than 60 individuals with disabilities establish new small businesses.

During the White House meeting, Morris also shared a short list of policy recommendations to improve coordination of capacity-building activities to help entrepreneurs with disabilities across federal agencies, and increase access to capital through enhanced performance requirements of banks and community development financial institutions.

“White House officials appeared very interested in BBI’s ideas,” says Morris. “Based on the discussion, BBI has been asked to prepare more detailed information on the proposed policy recommendations, and also provide further ideas on how to increase support for entrepreneurs with disabilities as part of Startup America.”

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