Running For Office With a Disability

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This Is What You Need to Know to Run for Office with a Disability

Article courtesy of: Ed Carter


Running for office is a significant step toward making real change in your community. Whether for city council or on a Congressional level, your political service could change many lives. Getting started may be challenging, so here is what you should know before you begin.

It’s Okay to Need Help

No politician runs an entire campaign independently; it takes a long list of people to keep things operating smoothly. Especially when it comes to canvassing neighborhoods, developing materials, and arranging speaking engagements, you will need help.

Whether you have friends and family who can help out or you need to employ staff, it’s important to keep in mind that other candidates (with or without a disability) are doing the same.

Consider the following types of support during your campaign, depending on your comfort level and capabilities with each task.

  • Speeches and press releases don’t write themselves. Hiring a writer to handle these things may help ease your nerves and streamline your campaign messaging. You can hire Upwork copywriters on a freelance basis to handle all manner of copywriting tasks.
  • If you are deaf, hiring a sign language interpreter can make your campaign much easier. Verywell Health lists state-by-state sign language interpreter directories, where you can begin your search for a qualified interpreter.
  • Getting your message out there — and scheduling meetings — can be complicated. With the help of a press secretary or media strategist, you can keep organized and present the best possible angle to your audience.
  • Your team can even include a care management professional to help coordinate your medical needs while on the campaign trail.

Engage with Your Community

The first step to becoming a political candidate is engaging with your community. As the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) explains, most candidates with disabilities tend to have in-depth knowledge of disability-related issues and policies.

Unfortunately, not having a background in politics could hamper your efforts at getting elected. So, NCIL and other organizations recommend finding ways to participate in your community and become more visible in the political arena. For example, working on another candidate’s campaign can help prepare you for your own run.

Find Your Network

Building connections with your community can also provide a network you can tap for support and political endorsements. Apart from the people who work on your campaign, you also need peers to share ideas with. Forming connections with politically active people can provide a fresh perspective for your campaign, too.

Hire a Diverse Campaign Staff

Hiring a diverse campaign staff is essential for two reasons. One, you want to showcase to your voters that you value diversity beyond the scope of disabilities. Two, the more diverse your team, the stronger they’ll be. In fact, Forbes confirms that diverse teams lead to better outcomes in an array of scenarios.

Of course, you should look beyond the most conventional concepts of diversity (race, gender, age, disability) and into deep-level diversity. Deep-level diversity refers to personality, abilities, values, and other psychological aspects of a person.

Consider Enrolling in a Training Session

Organizations like the NCIL are spearheading political involvement for people with disabilities. The organization runs training sessions to help prospective candidates navigate challenges like canvassing with mobility issues, says Time.

For someone with little political experience, training on topics like fundraising and developing a supportive campaign team is welcome. Plus, the ability to form connections with others (often virtually) could help prepare your campaign for launch.

Campaigning for political office is a significant step toward enacting change in your community. Perhaps the most helpful piece of advice for candidates with disabilities is to remember that it takes a team to win an election. Therefore, having the right support will be instrumental in your success on the campaign trail.



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