SBA Shares Resources to Support Deaf and Hard of Hearing Entrepreneurs during National Deaf History Month

By Robert J. Blaney, SBA Arizona District Director 

Recently, I read an article about two entrepreneurs who were opening a new restaurant and they laughed at themselves for picking this time to go into business but, in reality, it is a great time to start their journey, especially if they have properly prepared.

As the Arizona District Director, I have the pleasure to speak with many entrepreneurs. Last month, we assisted a new entrepreneur who was trying to do just that and wanted to discuss her business model with a SCORE Association mentor.  Facing tough questions in tough times doesn’t have to be as difficult as it seems.  Some of the most common issues that we, working with the Arizona Small Business Development Center Network, the SCORE Association or the Women’s Business Centers have helped entrepreneurs with are examining their business model, evaluating their business plan and knowing where to get the help they need, all at no charge.

But there was one additional requirement, the entrepreneur who needed help is deaf and needed an American Sign Language interpreter to assist in facilitating the discussion.

Each year from March 13 through April 15 we commemorate the achievements of people who are deaf and hard of hearing by celebrating National Deaf History Month.  The time frame is spread across March and April in recognition of three turning points in deaf education history dating back to the early 1800s.

On April 15, 1817, America’s first public school for the deaf was opened. On April 8, 1864, Gallaudet University, the world’s first institution dedicated to advanced education for the deaf and hard of hearing was founded, and on March 13, 1988, Gallaudet hired its first deaf president.

National Deaf History Month was first celebrated in 1997 and my mother, educated as a special education teacher, taught me American Sign Language as a child and I used it later in life when I was a police officer.

Self-employment has long been an option for individuals with disabilities and SBA has a number of resources to assist individuals with disabilities interested in alternatives to traditional employment.

Please visit us at , follow us on twitter at SBA Arizona (@sba_arizona) / Twitter and view our Resource Guide at for additional information.

Robert J. Blaney has served as the district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration for the State of Arizona since 1998. His varied experience includes work as a federal agent, police officer, vice-president of an insurance brokerage and district director for the late Congressman Jack Kemp. He is a native of western New York and a graduate of the State University College of New York at Buffalo.

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit

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