Economic Participation

BBI believes that people with disabilities should have the right to live economically self-sufficient lives in their communities. With access to meaningful work that pays a living wage, people with disabilities will be able to afford to live in safe communities, enjoy good health, and become economically empowered and self-sufficient. Businesses benefit from the value that disability diversity brings to enhancing their services, products, and ultimately their bottom-lines; communities benefit from the broader economic development that takes place.

BBI works in communities, nationally and worldwide, to improve economic participation among people with disabilities in three major domains:

Research and Knowledge Translation

BBI has developed a recognized research and evaluation profile that demonstrates collaborative, cross-sector methods to understand and evaluate employment, entrepreneurship, and economic self-sufficiency, programs and practices.

Program Development

BBI’s innovative program development involves training, technical assistance and pilot demonstrations of entrepreneurship services and employer and economic partnerships which lead to the development of best and promising employment, entrepreneurship, and economic self-sufficiency practices. BBI develops new tools, techniques and partnerships that improve economic participation outcomes for people with disabilities.

Policy Guidance

Policy guidance includes legal writing, policy analysis, and consultation. BBI assists in the development of, and improvements in, national and international laws, regulations, and policies by governing bodies, businesses, and non-governmental organizations that remove barriers and increase resources targeted to improved economic participation for people with disabilities as a fundamental human right. Across the board, these three domains of activities combine to reduce economic participation systems fragmentation and overlap. BBI examines and addresses relationships among employment and entrepreneurship as income production, as well as saving and asset building to improve quality of life, rather than siloing these areas. More detailed descriptions of BBI’s current work to address these four domains is available through their respective links.

Areas Of Economic Participation


BBI knows from research and experience that most people with disabilities want to have a meaningful job at a living wage. The world over, work is a fundamental aspect of life. Working provides the means to meet individual and family material needs but having a job can mean more than a regular paycheck for people with disabilities. With a job, one also can get the work and social associations that are just one of the ties that integrate people into their communities.

Work can improve self-esteem, a sense of personal meaning and purpose, provide intellectual and physical challenges and often contribute to a sense of hope for opportunity in peoples’ lives. For people with disabilities whose lives can be regulated by their appointments, treatment regimens, therapies and other activities that can often be lacking.

Economic Empowerment

Economic empowerment is the capacity to preserve and grow resources that expand quality of life choices. BBI, in partnership with the National Disability Institute as well as government, financial institutions, and community organizations is testing a variety of strategies to strengthen the ability of individuals with disabilities to develop and control income and assets.

Assets include savings, investments, home and business ownership, and human capital gained from continuing education. Economic empowerment puts you back in control of your financial life by improving economic stability, decreasing stress, and offering savings strategies that will not cause loss of public benefits.


Today, as the national recession and tight job market continues, more Americans are turning to self-employment as their career option and over 10 million Americans are self-employed. Worldwide, as in the US, small businesses are the mainstay of local economies. Working in a small business is often one of the first jobs young people acquire. Families often rely on their small businesses to meet their daily living expenses.

Micro-enterprise initiatives throughout the US and internationally help people who are poor, including those with disabilities to have careers that may not otherwise be possible in the wage employment sector, where jobs may be scarce. Many more people with disabilities could become self-employed and make the transition from poverty and a life on public assistance benefits to fulfilling careers that provide livable incomes. BBI is a leader in developing research, best practices and in improving policies that help make business ownership an increasingly available option for people with disabilities.