Success: overcoming hurdles

NH Vocational Rehabilitation has helped over 100 people with disabilities pursue self-employment

Most things in life worth attaining come at a price. It may be hard work, patience, money or a combination of a lot of different factors. Sometimes it’s a little outside help that’s the critical catalyst making all the difference. This is particularly true in business. 

Nancy Dixon began her career as a mother and volunteer for the local school system. With a passion for working with children, she ultimately became a full-time special education tutor and aide until, after 15 years, she found herself having to go on disability due to a severe form of Rheumatoid Arthritis. 

As her capacity to work continued to decline, she turned to NH Vocational Rehabilitation (NHVR) to investigate other career options. In addition to learning about programs tailored to helping individuals with disabilities pursue traditional employment, Nancy learned that NHVR offered training to support pursuing self-employment. With a lifelong dream of writing children’s stories, Nancy enthusiastically signed up!

The NHVR self-employment program offers a step-by-step, methodical approach to guide individuals with disabilities through a process of identifying a valid business idea, testing the market and launching their own venture.

Recognizing increased trends toward self-employment as a vocation, NHVR contracted with the Knowledge Institute for Small Business Development (KISBD) to develop two different programs for its customers. There is a program designed to help NHVR customers pursue part-time self-employment and a program to support full-time business pursuits. 

One of the core strengths of the NHVR self-employment program is its capacity to engage other resource providers across the state that focus on supporting venture start-up and growth. This includes SCORE, the NH Small Business Development Center and the NH Employment Security Pathway to Work program. In fact, there are over 400 programs in New Hampshire tailored to delivering free and low-cost small business assistance through a consortium of public/private organizations. These programs can be found online at the Business Utility Zone Gateway (

By facilitating connections with established small business assistance agencies across the state, the program leverages the specialized skills and knowledge of NHVR counselors without requiring them to become business development experts.

In just under two years, NHVR has helped over 100 individuals with disabilities pursue self-employment as a viable vocation for attaining both income and quality of life objectives. 

Thanks to the NHVR self-employment program, Nancy has launched a whole new career that remains true to her passion for helping children. With limited use of her hands and neck, she has used voice recognition software to author a series of children’s books that deal with common challenges that kids face in everyday life, through the eyes of a curious cat named Ragdoll.

“The Cat in My Closet: Ragdoll’s Trip to the Vet” is the first in a series of six children’s books devoted to how a kitty views and copes with change. Ragdoll and the two people she lives with, Les Dear and Nan Hon, become a family that is bonded by the trials of one very confused kitty. By seeing how Ragdoll learns how to handle the unexpected, along with Les Dear and Nan Hon, children are guided to trust the adults who love and care about them. 

The second story, “The Cat in My Closet: Ragdoll’s Trip to Newfoundland,” is currently in draft form. These books are designed for children ages 5 to 8, but people of all ages will find them fun and entertaining. 

Nancy’s books are available in soft cover, through You can contact the author at 

Deborah A. Osgood is co-founder and CEO of the Exeter-based Knowledge Institute for Small Business Development.

Categories: Workplace Advice