Tips on Running for Office When You Have a Disability
Running for office is one of the best ways to represent your community and advocate for the matters that are important to you. According to the CDC, one in four adults in the U.S. has a disability. Pacific Standard points out that this makes people with disabilities the largest minority group in the U.S. But despite disabled people making up such a large percentage of the population, there are currently very few elected officials with disabilities. If you have ambitions of running for office, you can help reduce that disparity. Find tips and resources for starting a successful campaign below.
Work Your Way into Politics
You can run for office with no political experience. However, you may wish to get a feel for politics before diving in. Luckily, there are many ways to launch your political career. For example, you may consider joining a political party, attending municipal meetings, and networking with activists in your community.
Volunteering for a campaign is another great way to get a sense of everything involved with running for office. You might think of cold calling voters when it comes to volunteering, but there are actually many different roles to fill.
Starting Your Own Campaign
After getting involved in political causes you care about, you’ll have a much better idea of what to expect when you launch your own campaign. You don’t have to start at the national or state level to be successful. In fact, many politicians start small at the local level. For example, you may wish to run for the local school board or town council to get started. You can also choose to run at the county or state level if you feel ready for a larger challenge.
Even for a small, local campaign, there’s a lot of work involved. You’ll need to fund your campaign, have a group of advisors or campaign staff, build a base of supporters, and interact with your community throughout the campaign.
You will also have to identify your platform so that voters know your stance on key issues. As a person with disabilities, you have a unique opportunity to use your platform to connect with people who have faced many of the same challenges and frustrations as you.
Building Your Campaign Staff
No matter how big or small your campaign is, you will want a few people to assist you. A campaign manager is probably the most important person you will hire. Campaign managers can help you come up with strategies, stay on top of your budget, arrange public appearances, and more. You may also wish to hire a volunteer coordinator or event manager.
Using freelancing sites like Upwork is a great way to find people to assist you with nearly any aspect of your campaign. For example, you can find designers to create campaign materials and editors to proofread your content. Hiring a freelance web designer can also come in handy when creating your website.
Resources for Running a Successful Campaign
You may feel as if you need to leave your comfort zone when you get started with politics, especially if you face barriers due to your disability. Unfortunately, there are very limited resources created specifically for disabled individuals wishing to launch a political career.
Any political candidate can take advantage of campaign bootcamps, many of which are geared toward people in marginalized groups. You can benefit from bootcamps regardless of your situation. However, you may find that the Elevate program created by the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) provides even more value for you.
NCIL is an organization that focuses on empowering people with disabilities. Among its other services, the organization also allows disabled political candidates to register in an informational database designed to bring more awareness to the existence of their campaigns.
Running for office is never an easy task, but you may face additional challenges if you are disabled. However, holding an elected office is one of the best ways to effect change in your community. As a person with disabilities, you are uniquely qualified to represent the interests of your political constituents.
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