Kiva has opened up to lending to entrepeneurs within the U.S. and I think this is something disability activists and independent living centers need to jump on immediately. This won’t help everyone, but it could help quite a few people with disabilities to start their own businesses.
For example, look at these Pass Plan examples.
# PASS Plan Abstract: Joseph’s goal is to become a full-time office clerk for the state. He has the disability label of Muscular Distrophy, Cognitive, and Vision Impairments, and uses a wheel chair. Joseph’s PASS will pay for OJT training experiences, a van, insurance, registration, gas maintenance, and a driver. This PASS will be used to purchase of a van, install lift modifications, and hire a personal attendant. The yearly cost is $1884.00. This PASS is for six years and a total amount of $11,304. This PASS comes from the Chicago Regional SSA Office.
How different would that proposal look if it were a request for capital and a Kiva-style loan (OR… a donation.) I’ve been saying for a while that what is insurmountable to a PWD, like simply needing a ramp built and a decent wheelchair, say a $5000 cost, would be easily obtainable through profiles and requests for donations or loans. Make the problem and the solution visible, and people will help, because to someone that $5000 is like pocket change and to a much greater pool of people on the Internet, a lot of small donations could make it up in no time. This would eliminate some of the structure of “professionals” who, frankly, siphon off 2/3 of the resources allocated to empower people with disabilities. Think of the people who have comfortable lives as professional experts who administer charity but who keep the objects of their charity in crazy poverty. It’s not their fault, it’s a systemic fault, but there’s something deeply wrong there.
How might a Kiva-like structure combine with Ticket to Work to make it easier for people with disabilities not just to find jobs but to go into business for themselves. Look at the collectives and cooperatives on Kiva and how a group of women will band together. That’s the kind of organization we might need to develop. If you get benefits and depend on them for, say, your health care, your personal care attendent, your ventilator; then you can’t have any resources and are trapped in an endless poverty, you can’t accumulate resources, you are kept in dependency. I have some problems with “being middle class” as a goal and yet faced with things like institutional living and the loss of control of our lives I think it’s not a bad goal to work towards.