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When you consider that the CDC reports one-fourth of Americans have a disability, it’s easy to see that those with disabilities are grossly underrepresented in government. And this is true at every level, from local to state to federal.
If you live with a disability and have a desire to serve the public—whether it’s as a member of the city council, state legislature, United States Congress, or any other sector—it’s clear we need more representation by those with disabilities. And not only are you needed, you’re naturally qualified in certain regards—navigating through challenges is likely something you’re used to, and that can prove highly useful during a campaign.
While there may be some additional considerations you have to make, succeeding in a run for office requires many of the same things from everyone. To help you get started planning for your campaign, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Build your team.
First of all, no candidate who succeeds does so on their own. One of the first things you should do is to start thinking about your campaign staff. Your campaign manager will be the most important member of your team (besides you, of course) because they are responsible for overseeing virtually every aspect of your campaign. Therefore, look for someone who is not only qualified but whom you can trust as well.
Other staff members you should consider hiring (include but are not limited to) a communications director and/or press secretary, finance director, treasurer, political director, volunteer coordinator, field director, and legal advisor. And if you can budget for it, hiring someone with design and/or art experience can take your campaign marketing over the top and help build your brand.
For example, by hiring a graphic designer, you can provide voters with high-quality images and visuals through your social media pages, website, and so on. And if you go through freelance job boards, you should be able to find several qualified candidates to choose from in your area.
Ask questions and accept help.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re running for office. In fact, you should be afraid not to ask questions! Forbes says to pull from the wisdom of those who have done it before, whether it’s someone who has filled the position you’re seeking, is currently in the position, or even someone who has run and lost in the past. This is a great way to learn about what their team was like, how they ran their day-to-day operations, how much money they raised, and much more.
Also, if people volunteer to help out with the campaign, say yes. Unless you’re convinced that someone has been planted by your opponent to sabotage your campaign, you could use the help.
Fill out the forms.
Before you run, you have to get on the ballot. This includes going through a process of applications, forms, and other materials, and you must meet all your deadlines. Since jurisdiction plays a major role in what your exact process will look like, check with your county’s elections website and your state’s secretary of state website to see what all is involved.
Make in-person meetings a priority.
This is an area where you may have to make certain adjustments to accommodate your disability. Nonetheless, meeting voters in person is still a crucial part of running for office, and all the marketing tricks in the world can’t replace its effectiveness. It’s a chance to share your platform message and help them understand why your ideals will make the world a better place.
For instance, if you’re interested in improving the accessibility of outdoor areas in your community, explain to them that it will improve quality of life for the community as a whole—as people in wheelchairs, with baby strollers, canes, and so forth would enjoy better health and inclusion.
You can be part of a movement to make local, state, and even federal government represent the number of Americans with disabilities more accurately. Build an effective team, prepare your message, and be ready for an interesting journey. The world needs more leadership from those with disabilities, and with the right plan in place, you can do it!