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Burton Blatt Institute, Eastern Washington University partner to promote entrepreneurship for people with disabilities in Ghana
Gary Shaheen G’86, Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University senior vice president, and Romel Mackelprang, Eastern Washington University professor and noted researcher on accessibility for people with disabilities, worked on site during the week of Feb. 7 with partners in Ghana, including Kwame Nkrumah University faculty, to build partnerships and develop resources to replicate Inclusive Entrepreneurship.
Inclusive Entrepreneurship provides training and technical assistance to people with disabilities that enables them to become self-employed, often with the assistance of students enrolled in the joint Whitman School of Management and BBI Inclusive Entrepreneurship Consulting course.
People with disabilities in Ghana experience an average unemployment rate of almost 90 percent. Leadership from the Kwame Nkrumah University, the Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies, the Knust School of Business, NGOs and foundations including Engage Now Africa hope to reverse this trend by helping more people with disabilities to develop their own businesses or worker-owned cooperatives.
The proposed project includes creating an on-site and distance learning entrepreneurship curriculum, which would enroll students from Ghana and the United States in experiential learning. The students would serve as business consultants to entrepreneurs with disabilities. In addition, the project would provide technical assistance and micro-loans to emerging enterprises.
Shaheen and Mackelprang visited two such enterprises—Ability Bikes, a worker-owned cooperative employing people with disabilities in Kumasi, and an orthopedics training and manufacturing center employing people with disabilities in Nsawam who could benefit from the project. During the visit, Shaheen and Mackelprang also taught a disability and entrepreneurship class at the University.
“This project is another example of the way that BBI and the Whitman School create partnerships across the country and around the world to improve civic, social and economic inclusion of people with disabilities,” says Shaheen. “Dr. Mackelprang has extensive experience working throughout Africa on accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities, the Whitman School and BBI bring entrepreneurship experience, and our partners in Ghana have scholarship, local connections and the respect and trust of Ghanaians with disabilities and agencies that serve them. This should be a winning combination that will result in real and significant improvement in the lives of Ghanaians with disabilities.”
BBI and Eastern Washington University are currently drafting proposals to secure funding to help approximately 45 people with disabilities per year start businesses using the Inclusive Entrepreneurship approach in Ghana. The goal is to enroll and train more than 125 students per year to serve as consultants to the entrepreneurs.