Check out this article from Ed Carter, a retired Financial Advisor who now focuses on financial advising for those with disabilities. You can find out more info on his work at https://ablefutures.org
Chances are that you can’t name but a few people off the top of your head who have a disability and hold a public office—be it at the local, state, or federal level. And considering that one in four U.S. adults lives with a disability, this is a problem.
There’s no doubt that individuals with disabilities are severely underrepresented in this country, which means that the ways in which the government can serve them are limited. But what can we do to change it? Inspiring those with disabilities to run for public office and informing them as to how to do it are great ways to start.
1. The Reality
While dreams and aspirations are reasons to consider a run for office, they won’t be enough to sustain you through a campaign, much less the daily duties of being an elected official. Discuss the realities of a campaign and heavy workload with your loved ones before you make any decisions.
For example, are you ready for the criticisms that will likely come during the campaign? Can you handle the workload required both during a campaign and once you’re in office? Are you equipped with the skills and experience needed to win against your opponent? These are the kinds of questions to go through with your family before you dive into a campaign.
2. The Candidate
If your family is on board, you will then need to do some self-reflection. What is it that you stand for? Will you run on a platform of helping other people with disabilities get access to the services they need? Who are the target voters you will be working to win over? Once you have a solid idea of what you want your identity to be as a candidate, you’ll be ready for the next step.
3. The Campaign Manager
The team you have in place will play a major role in determining the outcome of your campaign, and this starts with the campaign manager. Because your campaign manager will ultimately be in charge of everything campaign related, be sure to find someone who is qualified, reliable, and dedicated to your values. If you don’t already have someone in mind for the position, asking for recommendations from your network of professionals is a good way to start your search for a campaign manager.
4. The Team
Besides the campaign manager, there are several other roles you will need to fill on your team. For example, hiring a web developer can help ensure that your website engages and informs voters, and you can easily find candidates through job boards. A communications director will be responsible for getting your message out to the public, responding to media, and so on. A finance director will handle fundraising and make sure there is money to implement your strategy. The number of staff members needed is largely determined by the needs of each specific campaign.
5. The Strategy
Finally, what is your strategy? Get with your team to determine a plan of attack for your campaign. This might include things like deciding the major parts of your platform, how you will market your message to the public, and other ways you will reach voters. This is also where you will plan for any necessary adjustments to accommodate your disability, whether it’s while canvassing homes, doing interviews, or attending meet-and-greets at local businesses.
If you live with a disability and are interested in running for public office, make sure your family is on board with your decision. Then, put together a solid team and strategy that can help you win. Most importantly, always stay true to yourself and remember the voters who supported you along the way.
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