Running for Office With a Disability

This article is brought to you by The American Legion Department of Connecticut.

It can’t be denied that the world is on the cusp of monumental changes that can potentially improve the quality of life for the marginalized, minorities, those with disabilities, and the like. However, for change to come to fruition, representation is necessary. For this reason, it’s refreshing to see that more people with disabilities are seeking public office to push meaningful agendas in this day and age.

Of course, getting into politics can be quite challenging, in and of itself, and if you have special needs and physical and/or medical limitations, it can be downright grueling, even with the best intentions. That’s why it’s important to get to know what a bid for public office will entail and learn how to do it right with the least amount of hardship on your part.

Understand the challenges.

First thing’s first—know that there is definitely no law against a person with disabilities running for office; this is a political right. Despite this, you might find people around you, well-meaning or otherwise, opposed to such an undertaking, especially in consideration of the likely physical and mental toll of politics.

The fact is, many people with disabilities require empowerment to become leaders, which is where Time suggests the bulk of the challenges lie. Moreover, there’s also the fact of having to deal with stereotypes and stigma on the campaign trail. A prime example of this is how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously hid his paralysis in his campaign and through most of his time in office.

Bring in the right people.

Unless you have a political pedigree, it goes without saying that breaking a trail in politics can be very challenging. Because of this, it’s smart to leverage all the help you can get. You might be surprised to find, however, NOS Magazine notes there are organizations that train disabled people to seek public positions, and these are unquestionably the folks you want in your camp.

At the most fundamental level, you’ll also need to understand the campaign process and, by extension, the campaign roles and responsibilities that will get the ball rolling for you. The fact is, a campaign is not a one-person show, and it’s truly in your best interest to populate a solid team.

Usually, campaign staff includes volunteers, but there’s really no rule against working with professionals like freelancers. Case in point, it’s more than wise to hire a social media marketing expert to help enhance your online presence as well as craft and regularly post on your social media sites. Thankfully, it’s simple enough to hire social media marketing services through online job boards, since you can check their experience and credentials easily.

Be inclusive.

Speaking of messages, it naturally follows that you’re running for office because you have an agenda close to your heart that you want to represent in the public arena. As a person with a disability, this will likely be more geared toward people with disabilities, which, again, is largely an under-represented sector.

While you can focus on your group’s issues and pain points, it’s also important to be more inclusive of society as a whole, as well—not only to get you the necessary votes, but to also be recognized as someone who is an ally to everyone. Be ready to explain why the community and society as a whole will benefit from your platform. People will be more inclined to rally at your side when they understand what’s in it for themselves.

It’s truly commendable that you’re considering taking on the challenges of public office, because the current political arena is in dire need of diversity. Surround yourself with the right people and keep your message clear. Ultimately, this is how societies are changed for the better, and with your political bid, you can help drive that change.