New website aims to help people with disabilities find better economic success

Re-posted from disability.gov, “Turning Disabilities into Opportunities,” by Out of Step Founder, Nikki Zimmerman
“I feel like the Out of Step tool has had this tremendous positive effect on my life, and on me. I feel motivated, I am happier, I feel more confident and worry a lot less.” – Christy Lloyd, Portrait Artist and a Member of Out of Step.

As the founder of Out of Step, a new, free website where people with disabilities can offer services or sell products, I get inspiring emails like this almost daily. When I dreamt of a marketplace for those with disabilities, I knew it would be an amazing place for people to showcase their skills and earn money. But it’s proved way more valuable – we’re motivating individuals to move forward and believe in possibilities again…or in some cases for the first time.

Our team launched the Out of Step tool because we believe people with disabilities can and do want to work. We’re proudly “out of step” with the notion that people with disabilities have to continue within a nearly 15 percent unemployment rate. On our website, members with a disability show their industriousness every time they create a profile to sell a product or service.

Through the Out of Step tool, consumers can now find all sorts of great things, from books to industrial tools and dating services to computer help…all by people who happen to have a disability.

We have a seller in Tennessee providing rental dirt track karts to the general public. The karts can be used on a half mile contoured dirt track. There is nothing like it in the US. 15 minutes of absolute fun. Oh yeah – and he is blind.

Another member created a company called Wheel New York, which is creating a mobile accessibility app. As a person in a wheelchair, he knows firsthand the challenges of getting around the city.

The inspiration for Out of Step came from my daughter Riley, who was disabled but still wanted to have purpose. Her passion was folding laundry, and our family dreamed of helping her open Riley’s Laundry Service. While her illness didn’t allow that to come to fruition, my goal is to provide a solution for others with a disability.

Before launching, we reached out coast-to-coast to connect with the disability community – both those with disabilities and the agencies that serve them. We heard two important themes about the search for economic opportunity:

  1. People with disabilities want real solutions that are truly designed for their participation. No more platitudes and feel good programs.
  2. Many of the agencies that work with people with disabilities are lacking the tools necessary to provide those real solutions. Rather than take someone on unrealistic job interviews, they want modern, innovative options. And in a difficult, transitioning economy, their work has becomes so much more challenging.

The Out of Step tool was created with one thing in mind: to help people with disabilities find better economic success. We believe in each and every person with a disability – and that showcasing their skills and talents will change the way people with disabilities are seen by all.

Nikki Zimmerman is the founder of Out of Step (http://www.outofstep.com/), an innovative online marketplace where people with disabilities can find a better path to economic success by selling products or services. As the mother of a daughter with a disability, Nikki saw the need for a modern tool to employ each individual’s talents and strengths rather than focus on the disability. Nikki is the author of “A Life with Riley” and lives in the Northwest.