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Read This if You Have a Disability and Want to Run for Public Office

Written by Edward Carter

Woman in wheelchair sitting at workstation
Image via Pexels

According to the most recent statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four Americans is living with a disability. Why, then, are disabled individuals so underrepresented in government? The truth is, running for elected office is hard. However, if you have your heart and mind set on it, you can make it happen. Read on for some advice on how to get your campaign up and running.

Obstacles and Opportunities

When you have a disability, you will likely have additional challenges to consider. On the flip side of the coin, it’s also likely that you have garnered creativity and adaptability that can prove invaluable when facing problems during the campaign. And if your heart and mind are all-in for bettering your community, that will come through to the voters as well.

Consider making your platform personal, both to you and your community. Identify the issues you’re passionate about, how they have marked your personal journey, and be prepared to talk openly about how the community can improve. For example, if you’re interested in advocating for independent living for persons with disabilities, hone in on the particulars in your community and what you intend to do about making a difference. Talk about people you know who have experienced this issue, and what it would mean to help them.

Hire a Good Campaign Manager

Other than yourself, your campaign manager is the most essential part of your campaign. Not only will they be responsible for helping you strategize, but they will also be in charge of overseeing budgets, preparing you for public appearances, and many other things.

With that said, it’s important to hire someone who you think can get the job done. Along with being organized and strategic, your campaign manager must be a great leader who loves to interact with people. And most importantly, you need to be able to trust them.

Hire a Good Campaign Staff

Along with the campaign manager, you will need additional staff members to run a successful campaign. For example, your communications director will be in charge of all interactions with the media. The field director will be responsible for reaching voters with the campaign’s message directly. One of the most important roles to fill is finance director/fundraiser; that person will lead the efforts to allocate and raise funding, which is vital to any campaign. You can cut through the red tape by hiring a freelance fundraising consultant through online job platforms like Upwork.

Other staff members that may be necessary for your campaign include:

  • Political director
  • Campaign treasurer
  • Volunteer coordinator
  • Office Manager
  • Legal advisor
  • Social media manager

Be Creative When Canvassing Homes

One practical problem you might run into while campaigning, particularly if you use a wheelchair, is canvassing homes. But going door-to-door still plays an important role in political campaigns because it grants you an unmatched opportunity to connect with voters one-on-one.

While it might be beneficial to have your team do a large portion of the canvassing, you can still do some of it yourself (as much as you determine to do, really). It just may require some creativity, such as bringing along a portable ramp or having your volunteers ask residents to step outside so that you can meet them more easily.

Use Social Media for Everything It’s Worth

Finally, embrace social media like you never have before. It really might be your best friend during the campaign, since as Digital Marketing Institute explains it’s a powerful channel for getting your message out, raising money, and encouraging voters to show up at the polls. A qualified social media manager should be able to work with other staff members to create an effective strategy for using the various social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) to advance your campaign.

If you want to do it, then having a disability should not keep you from running for office. Be sure to hire a qualified campaign manager and other staff members who you can trust. Use creativity, and adapt when necessary. Take it to social media to get your message out and grow your brand. And brace yourself for a challenging-but-thrilling experience!

All questions can be directed to the author Edward Carter at ed.carter@ablefutures.org and on his website ablefutures.org.