Advice for People with Disabilities Who Run for Office
For people with disabilities who are interested in becoming an elected official, there’s plenty to consider as you prepare. Building a qualified campaign team is crucial to getting the ball rolling, and crafting your messaging and platform will help you establish yourself as a candidate. Get resourceful in how you look for your campaign team, and find the right people to help you carve out a successful political journey.
Building a team
As you assemble your campaign team, Masterclass suggests thinking about the various aspects of running a campaign. Some of the roles you’ll need to fill are finance director, research director, communications manager, and an overall campaign manager. If possible, find a different person for each role. However, if your budget is thin, you may need to find people who can take on more than one role and make it work within your means.
The campaign manager is one of the more important roles in crafting a team, as they are responsible for creating, implementing, and overseeing a campaign’s plan. This person should be well-aligned with the candidate’s views, and keep the campaign running smoothly. The manager should also be very cognisant of the candidate’s disabled needs, ensuring that all venues are accessible and that accommodations are made where needed.
Your finance director will be a crucial team member, helping to strategize ways to raise money for your campaign. Campaigns can be costly, so be sure this person sets a realistic goal and brainstorms various ways to reach that goal. Funding can come from a variety of sources, whether it’s through big fundraising events or online crowdfunding campaigns. This person will work closely with the campaign manager to ensure fundraising is on track and that campaign costs are covered.
When it comes to running for office, you open yourself up for criticism. This is where an attorney can be a crucial part of your team. To ensure you don’t have any proverbial skeletons in the closet to worry about (even little things can be a big deal). Go through your personal and work history or any business dealings prior to launching your campaign.
There are a few smaller jobs that you may want to hire freelancers for, such as personal assistants, content writers, and web designers. Freelancers can easily be found online through job boards. By filling these roles only when you need them, you’ll save money for your campaign.
Do your research
While you may feel like you know everything about your community, it’s likely there’s still more to learn. As you develop your campaign platform and goals, be sure to get out into the community as often as possible to learn about your future constituents and connect with voters. And, research voter insights through polling data in your district to understand broader sentiments amongst residents.
Consider volunteering in your district in order to gain more public servant experience and broaden your network. Call voters directly and host meetings to learn about important issues facing people in your area, as well as in the world at-large.
Be an advocate for people with disabilities by connecting more broadly with those communities and crafting goals that would help advance civil rights for marginalized groups, and this might be a pivotal aspect of your platform. For instance, you may wish to raise awareness regarding inadequate Internet accessibility and how it relates to COVID-19. As The Hill explains, people with disabilities are largely missing from politics, so your campaign has the opportunity to give voice to an underrepresented group.
As you craft your campaign, be sure to grow your online presence by setting up a website and social media accounts. Social media is an incredible tool for reaching voters, and when used correctly, can be powerful for inspiring a following.
A successful campaign is just as much about the campaign team as it is about the candidate. Find hardworking, passionate people who share your vision and aren’t afraid to speak up when needed. And be sure to put in the hard work yourself: by networking and communicating directly with voters, you’ll build your brand and message in a memorable way. Aim to connect both with people with disabilities and the broader community to build a following and pave the way for a successful candidacy.
I'm proud to periodically offer guest posts with important, pertinent information for our community. This article features insightful content authored by Ed Carter of Ablefutures.org.