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Campaign Advice for People with Disabilities

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)

Education and employment opportunities for disabled people have improved over time, particularly after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. But roughly 80% of people with disabilities are still unemployed according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and discrimination and other barriers mean that many people with disabilities can experience social isolation.

One of the nation’s leading disability rights groups, The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) recently launched the nonpartisan Elevate Campaign Training program, the first national campaign training for people with disabilities.

“People with disabilities are not empowered enough and they’re not told you can be a leader, you can do this,” Alexandria Knox, a disabled candidate for political office, told TIME Magazine after the program’s inaugural webinar in early June. “It’s really great what this organization is doing to encourage and equip strong leaders like me to be involved in politics.”

It’s not only challenging to talk about a disability once someone is campaigning for office, but the path to get there can contain obstacles as well. “If you think about who’s likely to run for office, they’re often people who have been successful in business or professions, who have been very active in their local communities,” says Richard Scotch, who heads the sociology program at the University of Texas at Dallas. “People with disabilities have lower incomes, they are less likely to be employed, they are less likely to be civically engaged in their communities.”

The rest of this blog was submitted by Derek Goodman. He can be reached at: Inbizability.    

Getting Started

If you’re thinking of running for office, it’s vital to establish a qualified team of individuals to help with the many details involved in a campaign. For those with disabilities, it’s also important to think about additional requirements you may need for your campaign, which means finding an experienced campaign manager is key. You’ll also want to establish a strong online presence, meaning you’ll need a professional web designer to create a slick website for your campaign.

Nationwide, people with disabilities are underrepresented in government. There may be some cultural barriers to your success, which means you’ll want to get the ball rolling early.  When you’ve set your sights on a run for office, one of the first steps is to volunteer in your community. You’ll also need to get experience as a public servant and begin to make connections within your community. It’s also a good idea to first work on someone else’s political campaign to understand the process and connect with voters.

You’ll want to begin building your brand by setting up social media accounts and connecting with organizations that share your beliefs. Establish your campaign platform, and succinctly summarize why you’re running and what you’ll do if elected. Once you’ve made connections and established yourself in the community, you’ll be ready to build your team. Disabilities

Launching Your Campaign

As you begin to look for qualified campaign team members, be sure to look within your immediate community, and make a point to bring in a diverse workforce for your campaign. Diversity initiatives in your campaign are a crucial element that will not only benefit the team you hire, but it shows that you place a priority on diversity and inclusion.

When looking for a campaign manager, it’s best to find someone who aligns with your beliefs and who can passionately share your messages throughout the campaign. Together, you’ll need to learn everything you can about your constituents and the political environment in the area where you plan to run. Be sure that your campaign manager keeps your disability in mind while planning events. The manager should be consistently seeking accessible venues and ensuring that your disability is accounted for in any appearances.

Campaign Funding

Running for office can be very costly, which is why you’ll want to find a finance expert to help pay for your campaign. Together, you can come up with a finance plan that will help you gain support and get elected. First, you’ll want to set a fundraising goal, basing your budget off the average cost to win a similar race in your district. Determine what tactics you’ll use to raise money, and how much you hope to raise through fundraising events or online tools. Make a calendar to help you stay on track and set benchmark goals throughout the campaign.

Potential funding sources for candidates with disabilities are non-profit organizations that champion rights for those with disabilities. Because there are few disabled people in politics, it’s likely you’ll gain support from organizations and groups that advocate for the disabled.

Any candidate running for office needs a qualified, trustworthy, and hard-working campaign team. For candidates with disabilities, that team needs to also keep in mind your needs — both as a candidate for office and someone who may require additional accommodations. Be sure to develop a strong online presence, as it will be the main way that voters will connect with you and help share your messaging.

 Blog posted on March 17, 2022.

Steven Mintz has published dozens of articles on ethics and a textbook titled Ethical Obligations and Decision Making in Accounting: Text and Cases. If you would like to book Dr. Mintz for company workshops or as a speaker or panelist for your school or conference, don’t hesitate to reach out!