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NCD Letter to Small Business Administration on 8a Designation

Monday, May 9, 2022

May 9, 2022

Isabella Casillas Guzman Administrator
Small Business Administration 409 3rd St., SW
Washington DC, 20416

Dear Administrator Casillas Guzman,

I am writing on behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD) —an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding laws, policies, practices, and procedures affecting persons with disabilities— to request a meeting with you to discuss adding firms owned and controlled by persons with disabilities to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 8(a) Business Development program presumed eligibility list.

Pursuant to SBA’s regulations, a business is eligible for the 8(a) Business Development program if they are, inter alia, at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are “socially disadvantaged individuals who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias within American society because of their identities as members of groups and without regard to their individual qualities.”1 The program also presumes that “Black Americans; Hispanic Americans; and Asian-Pacific Americans2 are socially disadvantaged and presumptively eligible for the program. Participants of the program must also meet an economically disadvantaged threshold prong.

There is a body of literature evidencing that people with disabilities are socially disadvantaged. Poverty causes disability by exacerbating physical and mental health issues, while people with disabilities achieve lower rates of education, employment, and financial independence, resulting in a scarcity of resources. In fact, people with disabilities live in poverty at more than twice the rate of people without disabilities

(29 percent compared to 12 percent).3 People with disabilities make up approximately 12 percent of the U.S. working-age population;4 however, they account for more than half of those living in long-term poverty.5 17.5 percent of people with disabilities participate in the workforce compared to 65 percent of people without disabilities, directly resulting in higher rates of poverty.6

NCD is aware that if an individual is not a member of one of the presumed socially disadvantaged groups, it does not preclude them from eligibility in the program.

However, absent the presumption of eligibility each applicant must “present facts and evidence that by themselves establish that the individual has suffered social disadvantage that has negatively impacted his or her entry into or advancement in the business world”7 and “each instance of alleged discriminatory conduct must be accompanied by a negative impact on the individual’s entry into or advancement in the business world in order for it to constitute an instance of social disadvantage.”8

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted as one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation specifically to combat the social stigmas, discrimination, and inequities people with disabilities frequently encounter.9 Further, the ADA’s driving force was to guarantee that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life – to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services.10 People with disabilities have been historically socially and economically disadvantaged because of culturally embedded biases towards people with disabilities which has led to lower education levels, lower levels of employment, slowed job advancement and higher poverty levels.11 It is unequivocal that people with disabilities are socially and economically disadvantaged.

Pursuant to 13 C.F.R. §124(d)(1) “[r]epresentatives of an identifiable group whose members believe that the group has suffered chronic racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias may petition SBA to be included as a presumptively socially disadvantaged group…” Representatives from the disability community have made such a request over the last 20 years and SBA has not initiated the process to add this clearly identifiable group to the list.12 NCD would like to meet with the SBA to discuss the inclusion of people with disabilities as a presumptively socially disadvantaged group.

I look forward to working with you to provide people with disabilities easier access to this impressive SBA program for entrepreneurs. Our Director of Policy and General Counsel, Joan Durocher, will reach out to your office on May 30, 2022, to coordinate a meeting. Ms. Durocher may be reached at, if you would like to communicate with her prior to that date.


Andrés J. Gallegos


1 13 C.F.R. §124.103(a)

2 13 C.F.R.§124.103(b)

3 Peiyun, She, and Gina A. Livermore. 2008. “Long-Term Poverty and Disability Among Working-Age Adults.” Journal of Disability Policy Studies 19(4): 244–256.

4 Houtenville, and Eric A. Lauer. 2016. “Using Sensory, Functional, and Activity Limitation Data to Estimate Employment Outcomes for Working-Age Persons with Disabilities in the United States.” Journal of Disability Policy Studies 27(3): 131–137.

5 Lustig, Daniel C., and David R. Strauser. 2007. “Causal Relationships Between Poverty and Disability.” Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin 50(4): 194–202.


6 Fulfilling the Promise: Overcoming Persistent Barriers to Economic Self-Sufficiency for People with Disabilities. Washington, DC: U.S. Senate HELP Committee. and%20Poverty%20Report.pdf

7 13 C.F.R.§124.103(c)(3)

8 13 C.F.R.§124.103(c)(3)(i)

9 42 U.S.C. 12101(a)

10 Id.

11 Id.

12 Interview with Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, CCD, November 9, 2021, interview notes housed at NCD

An official website of the National Council on Disability