A Guide to Launching a Political Campaign if You Hold a Disability

contributed by Ed Carter, Able Futures (www.ablefutures.org)

According to Pew Research Center, approximately 19 percent of the U.S. population held a disability in 2016 — but the number of elected officials with physical, communicative, or mental disabilities still remains unclear. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any disabled candidates in office. In fact, the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) has recently started tracking this information for future use. At the federal level, several elected officials with disabilities include Shannel Pittman (California), Darren Aquino (Florida), Soren Sorensen (Minnesota), Amanda Siebe (Oregon), and Joshua Collins (Washington).

If you’ve been thinking of running for office, your physical, mental, or communicative disability shouldn’t hold you back from launching a political campaign of your own. With the right team of professionals to assist you in planning and launching a campaign, you’ll have everything you need to show the world that individuals with disabilities are just as equipped to run for office as anyone else. For some advice on launching your political campaign, read on!

Connect with Local Organizations

If you’re thinking of running for office, it’s important to start by connecting with organizations that work to empower individuals with disabilities. Through its portfolio-building workshops, for instance, organizations like Integrate for Good can help you to identify your greatest strengths, passions, abilities, and talents — and connect you to other leaders in the community.

Additionally, the NCIL recently launched its first campaign training program for individuals with disabilities. Through this training program, individuals with disabilities can learn how to run for office, hire and pay for a campaign manager, and overcome some of the challenges they’ll likely face along the way. Door-to-door canvassing, for instance, can be a challenge for wheelchair users, but some creative thinking and a good team of volunteers can help you to overcome these common types of barriers.

Build Your Political Team

Next, you’ll need to assemble a team to assist you in running for office and making your campaign more accessible to other voters with disabilities. Your team will typically depend on your budget and the size of your campaign, but a campaign manager will be essential to your success as a candidate with disabilities. As you assemble your team, you’ll want to look for essential staff members such as:

Campaign managers. For small campaigns, this could be the only staff you have on your team. However, campaign managers can typically help to hire other staff members, run ads, and manage your schedule.

Finance or fundraising directors. To secure funding for your campaign, set revenue goals, and identify potential donors, you’ll need a finance or fundraising director to assist you.

Copywriters. As you get ready to launch your political campaign, you’ll need a copywriter to help you with things like writing speeches, press releases, and website content. To find freelance website copywriting professionals with the skills you’re looking for, head to online job boards like Upwork.

Web developers. As a candidate with disabilities, your campaign website must be accessible to you and other disabled individuals. Like copywriters, you can find freelance web developers on Upwork.

Volunteers. If you’re looking to include other individuals with disabilities in your political campaign, you could hire them as volunteers. In addition to helping you with things like calling donors and setting up for events, your volunteers will obtain the skills and training they need to launch their own political campaign in the future.

Launch Your Campaign for Office

If you’d like to run for office, you shouldn’t let your disability hold you back from pursuing your dreams of making a positive difference in the world around you. Your disabilities may mean you’ll need to take a more creative approach to running for office, but organizations like the NCIL can help to prepare and empower you as you get ready to launch your political campaign.