Running for Public Office When You Have a Disability

The Early Stages


Chances are, you won’t get very far if you just decide to run for an office without preparation. And even if you do decide to throw in your proverbial hat, your chances of success without a little forward thinking are slim.


Unless you’ve been around politics as a volunteer or community organizer, you likely don’t even know where to start. Fortunately, as Kiplinger explains, first-time candidates have access to many community resources. Political boot camps are an example. During these programs, you’ll learn the basics, such as how to target voters and assemble your team. You can also take advantage of career training opportunities that can help you master things like Microsoft Office and customer service.


What Team?


We mentioned learning how to assemble a team, and it’s important to know what that might look like. There are a few different people that you need in your corner, starting with a campaign manager. This person will need to be trustworthy, have leadership qualities, and must understand how to steer your campaign. 


Depending on the office for which you are running, you may also need someone to handle finances and work as a volunteer coordinator. Even if you’re only running for a small, local office, you’ll also want to hire a social media marketing consultant to help you accurately convey your message across different platforms—and do so with accessibility in mind. And it may be a good idea to hire someone to manage Instagram accounts as well so you can positively engage with as many people as possible. You can network to fill any of these roles, or you can take to sites like Upwork to find a freelance professional with expertise in your particular area of need.


Ground Game


When you have your team together, it’s time to work on your campaign strategy. This should include, above all things, what’s known as a ground game. This is essentially how you get out and physically interact with the voters. Vox explains that, sadly, voters aren’t seeing enough of this grassroots-style interaction. You can use your ground game to get your name, face, and cause in front of the people that matter, and then your social media manager can use that to your advantage to bring even more attention to the campaign.


Little Reminders


If executed well, your campaign will leave a mark on voters. But you’ll also want to leave them with a physical reminder of your time together. This is especially important when you’re running as a person with disabilities so that your strengths significantly overshadow any potential perceived weaknesses. Flyers, buttons, T-shirts, and other trinkets with a great political slogan, along with your name and voting date, can help.


Cash Crunch


If you provide promotional materials, you will either have to pay out-of-pocket or raise money. When you do the latter, you must proceed as ethically as possible. During any political fundraising event, maintain honesty, financial transparency, and respect for your donors as well as the general public. You may also contact your party’s local headquarters to find out if there are any specific rules or regulations that you must follow, such as special accounting practices.


When you are passionate about a cause, the best way to get results is to take action—and there are few better ways to take action than to run for an office. Whether you’re an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities or simply want to make your hometown a better place, running for public office can give you the boost you need to better your world. But remember, preparation is the key, and the actions you take now and the team you put together will direct your success.