Indy ordinance to level playing field for disabled business owners

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INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is expected to sign an ordinance into law Thursday that supporters say will empower disabled business owners.

They will be awarded one percent of the city’s contracts each year with the new program.

In Marion County, 146,000 people are disabled. Recent statistics suggest that 70 percent of them live in poverty.

“Like other groups that have come through this, you have to do it better, do it harder, do it faster and do it smarter,” said Greg Fehribach, an Indianapolis attorney who uses a wheelchair.

Fehribach, who’s run his own practice for 27 years, said he wants to see other disabled business owners empowered. The ordinance could do just that, said Fehribach, who’s also been involved in pushing for city improvements regarding the disabled.

“We have to get people who are users of the system to be contributors to the system,” he said.

Statistics reveal 146,000 people in Marion County are disabled, and approximately 70 percent are living in poverty.

“It brings people with disabilities into that same economic land of opportunity,” said Juli Paini from the City of Indianapolis Office of Disability Affairs.

Some private projects that include city investments will also be a part of the new yearly requirement for disabled-owned businesses.

“Indianapolis says, ‘If you’re a person with a disability, and you haven’t thought about opening your own business, guess what? There’s an incentive. Here’s something to think about,'” said Paini.

“Typically, in the United States, we’ve always thought that people with disabilities are the people we have to take care of. This particular ordinance is something that demonstrates that people with disabilities want to be a part of the process, to correct some misconceptions and put themselves in a position where they’re giving back,” Fehribach said.

Disabled business owners will be added to the online database as they are certified. The city already has specific yearly goals involving racial and ethnic minorities, women and veterans.

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