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6 tips for people with disabilities who want to run for office

By Ed Carter

Running for office is an excellent way to effect change in your community and beyond. But as a person with a disability, you might feel apprehensive about managing an entire political campaign solo. Here are six tips to help you navigate your political run—and maybe even win.

1. Be Realistic About Your Chances

While you might be setting your sights high, it pays to be realistic about your odds of earning votes. Becoming a council member in your city is far different than earning election as a senator, for example. Some roles might even require years of political service before you become eligible for candidacy. Plus, you’ll need to raise funds to handle your campaign’s expenses. 

2. Enlist a Team to Help

Going it alone is a surefire way to lose your political campaign. You might need campaign experts like a campaign manager, media consultant and campaign treasurer. The expertise of others can fuel your decisions and help you navigate the journey. 

There are specialists you might consider as well, like influencer marketing services that can get you promoted on various social media platforms, and an email marketing pro who can help you engage with voters and promote your campaign with targeted emails. Luckily, finding many types of experts is easy when you head online to form connections.

3. Share Your Ideas

You’re probably thinking about campaigning because you feel strongly about one or more causes. Your motivation for running for office is an important factor in your campaign, so sharing your ideas is an essential step. However, Chron explains that you’ll need to have a brief elevator-pitch type slogan for people to really “get” it.

Think about your platform in general terms: what ideal or value is at stake? Take a look at past winning slogans from presidential campaigns for inspiration, but make sure your message is short, sweet, and your own.

4. Find Social Connections

While generating political support is great, you need personal connections, too. Consider speaking with others on social media or online support forums. You might meet people who can offer unique insight on more than just politics. These online friendships can also serve as an outlet whether you’re feeling frustrated or elated about your campaign.

5. Network, Network, Network

Friendships are important, but friends in high places are more powerful. It’s the truth, even if it feels a bit uncomfortable: your political connections can get you places. So, how can you make political connections if you’re new to the city council or local legislature? The answer is networking.

Sitting in on city council meetings or contacting current political office holders through email is a good start. You can also ask personal connections who they know and build up a bigger circle of allies who are politically active. You may even find a mentor in your search who can offer advice on campaigning and other aspects of election. Of course, taking inspiration from past candidates with disabilities can also be inspiring.

6. Use Social Media (Carefully)

Even if physical challenges keep you from going door-to-door to up support your campaign, you can still reach your constituents in meaningful ways. Social media can be an excellent channel for delivering messages to and hearing from your voters.

While overall political activity on social sites is low, both Facebook (six percent) and Twitter (eight percent) users engage about the same amount of political conversation, says Pew Research Center. That means plenty of viewership is available for your political content.

However, you should be cautious about sharing via social media. Like any other politician, you might be subject to a thorough background investigation by public opinion. So, cleaning up your social media profiles is essential before beginning your campaign.   

Becoming a candidate for political office is challenging no matter who you are. Although a disability can make things tougher, it doesn’t change your qualifications or passion for making a difference. If you remain dedicated and have a strong support network, the campaign trail might be just the place for you.

Ed Carter is a retired financial planner. He is the author of Able Future, a comprehensive financial guide for parents with children who have special needs. Learn more at ablefutures.org. Photo via Pexels