Running for Office with a Disability


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Running for Office with a Disability: Yes, You Can Serve Your Community


We're living in unconventional times in a torn political climate. Especially if you live in the United States, The Pew Charitable Trusts notes that you likely know how divided many people feel when it comes to their political beliefs. With that said, now is a fantastic time to get involved in politics if you have a strong vision and believe you can make a difference, especially if you have a disability.  

For people with disabilities, it can be difficult to imagine a victory campaign or full acceptance due to past discriminations and stigmas. The truth is, the world needs more inclusivity, and the unique perspective you can provide matters. If you have a disability and are considering running for office, Maryland Works presents a few things to consider before announcing your campaign.

Being Transparent About Limitations 

Every candidate has limitations and strengths. While you may have mobility issues, an invisible disability, or trouble with certain tasks or skills, this doesn't mean you don't have as much to offer your community as any other candidate. For this reason, the key to running a successful campaign with a disability is to be honest with voters.

Instead of hiding your limitation or disability, be honest with the people you hope will vote for you. In fact, by being honest, you'll be building trust from the very beginning. Furthermore, you can help reduce the stigma for others who have disabilities, too. For example, perhaps you’ve looked at Walk Score maps of your community and noticed that there are many accessibility issues. Making your community more accessible could be a potential component of your campaign’s message.

Improving Your Credentials

Go over your resume, credentials, job experience, and overall skill set to determine if you're ready to put your name on the ballot. For some, Education Corner points out that this means returning to school to earn an advanced degree

For example, earning a college degree can help you establish credibility in your field while helping the people you hope to serve. By learning at your own speed around other responsibilities, online coursework at any level could allow you to work toward your goals. 

Cementing Your Campaign

While every campaign is different, certain boilerplate items are common. This includes hiring campaign staff. You’ll need a campaign manager, a communications manager, someone to coordinate volunteers and possibly a social media manager. There are also ancillary staff to consider, but these core people are who you need to find first.

In addition to gathering staff, determine your campaign goals and strategy so you can effectively share your message and let voters know what you plan to do if elected. Now is also an important time to start networking. Getting to know people in the political sphere, meeting donors, and talking to interest groups is a great way to generate support.

Highlight the Need for Diversity

As someone living with a disability, you're in the unique position of understanding what others who have disabilities experience in many areas. Whether this is poor access to health care, trouble finding special services or accommodations, or limits to income, you can offer a unique perspective at any level of government. 

When considering how you'll campaign, show voters not only who you are as a person, but that your life experiences make you someone who's more likely to understand special situations. While you won't want your disability to define you or your campaign, highlight the fact that all levels of government are well-served by more diverse populations. 

Heading Toward Victory

In the end, your decision to run for office should have more to do with your beliefs, values, and the changes you'd like to see in the world than any physical or mental limitations you may have. In fact, by putting yourself out there and showing others that you won't be defined by a disability, you'll become not only a change-maker but a role model to many.

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