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Disability Empowerment: How Fintechs Help Us Overcome Physical, Cognitive Challenges

Disability Empowerment: How Fintechs Help Us Overcome Physical, Cognitive Challenges

Disability Pride Month is coming to a close. The annual July commemoration is an opportunity to honor the experience and achievement of those in the disability community. The month of July is special because President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law on July 26, 1990. The landmark legislation was the first comprehensive law enshrining the civil rights of people with disabilities.

Today we take a look at just a handful of ways financial technology and the financial services community is helping support people with disabilities, whether those challenges are physical or cognitive, transitive or enduring.

There are some who bristle at the euphemism “differently abled.” But the idea of leveraging one ability to make up for another is at the heart of inclusion when it comes to people with disabilities. This is true when we are talking about technologies that enhance the power of hearing or touch for those with visual challenges. It is also true when we talk about a digital banking world that ultimately makes banking services more accessible to all – including those who cannot easily travel.

At the same time, greater awareness of the challenges faced by those with physical and cognitive challenges also means understanding the limits of technology. A pilot project in 2010 that explored disability inclusion in microfinancing institutions in Africa produced what one observer called “several clear conclusions from this pilot worth repeating because they are likely to have near universal application for MFIs entering this market.” The recommendations?

Don’t develop special credit products. Don’t give special conditions. Don’t get disappointed too soon. Identity existing clients with disabilities. Learn from them and use them in promotional efforts and in reaching out to new clients. Join efforts with local disability organization. Improve the physical accessibility of the premises.

A sizable number of government organizations and non-profit entities exist to help support people with disabilities secure employment, housing opportunities, as well as economic and health benefits. In many instances, non-profits have benefited from partnerships with financial institutions. This includes the partnership between JP Morgan Chase and the National Disability Institute. The bank, for example, is backing the NDI’s effort to inform and educate low- and moderate-income individuals with disabilities about the resources available to them under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).

The partnership between NDI and JP Morgan has produced some interesting insights into the challenges of small business owners with disabilities, as well. The report, Small Business Ownership by People with Disabilities: Challenges and Opportunities, makes a number of important points – foremost among them that entrepreneurialism is often a major employment choice for people with disabilities. The reasons for this vary from preferring a more flexible work schedule to previous experiences with discrimination or a hostile work environment to a lack of advancement opportunities. Importantly for people in financial services and fintech, the report noted that smaller, disability-owned businesses often avoid traditional financial channels and struggle to secure financing.

The causes for this aversion include concerns about using personal assets as collateral, a lack of assets, or benefit-related issues – such as a fear of losing social security benefits if their countable assets climb too high. Helpfully, the report provides a number of recommendations to help banks and fintechs better serve disability-owned businesses. These suggestions include greater investment in CRA funds for small businesses to more support of policies that would boost business opportunities, access to capital, and better coordinate of public resources.

Check out the full study.

Sometimes helping people with disabilities means helping people who help those with disabilities. According to data from co-parenting solution provider SupportPay, 38 million people are taking care of loved ones in 2023. To this end we share news that SupportPay has unveiled a new app designed to make it easier for caretakers to share, manage, and track expenses. The solution also enables caretakers to coordinate schedules and streamline communication. It is expected to be available in the fall of 2023.

Sheri Atwood, SupportPay founder and CEO, highlighted the fintech component of the new offering compared to other solutions on the market. “While several caregiver solutions are entering the market, none are focused on reducing the stress of managing expenses between multiple caregivers,” Atwood explained. “Our solution is built to solve this pain point by simplifying and streamlining this process.”

More than 65,000 parents are using SupportPay to manage more than $450 million in expenses and payments. In addition to helping caregivers share, organize, and track expenses and schedules, the new offering also helps caregivers review and resolve disputes as well as maintain certified records of expenses and payment histories. These can be especially helpful for tax purposes or addressing legal issues that arise.

“We knew our platform could be of assistance to all family members, including the staggering number of caregivers,” Atwood said. “From our co-parenting solution, we know that when people share financial responsibilities – whether it’s with an ex, a sibling, or another family member – the process can be much more time-consuming, conflict-ridden, and stressful.”

Founded in 2018, SupportPay is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. The company has raised $6.8 million in funding. SupportPay’s investors include LAUNCH and The Syndicate.

Photo by ELEVATE