Disabilities Not a Barrier to Public Office – Guest Blog Post by Ed Carter

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Disabilities Not A Barrier To Public Office

By Ed Carter


There are more than 151,000 elected offices available in the United States at a time. While you might not be qualified for all of them, as a person with a disability, you may be able to use at least one of them to advocate for change within your own community. Here, Aloha Independent Living Hawaii shares insight into how to run for office as a person with a disability.


Preparing Your Campaign Foundation


Your first stop on the road toward a public office is to know what, exactly, you want to run for and why. Next, you’ll have to establish yourself as an individual capable of handling the position and confident enough to create change with it. A few ways to do this include:


  • Earn a degree. Even if you already hold a bachelor’s or master’s, you might plan to go to school for a doctorate that will help people see more than just your disability. Even if you have a hectic schedule, you can earn your degree online without interfering with your daily schedule.


  • Talk about your disability. According to the CDC, one in seven adults in the United States lives with some form of disability. Don’t be shy about discussing yours with people within your community. You might just find that there are people who will support you that live with or love someone with a similar disability and are ready to see their communities universally accepting of people with mobility, cognitive, hearing, or vision differences.


Outline Your Goals


Virtually every person that has ever run for an office has won their title by setting goals that benefit their community. While only you know the type of goals that you will work toward, a few examples to use as a guide are:


  • Create more accessible areas. Adults are not the only ones with disabilities in the United States. Many children have issues, such as limb loss, spina bifida, and Down syndrome, that make it more difficult to interact with the world around them. While there are many disability-friendly parks and playgrounds throughout the US, not every city has open spaces that work for everyone.


  • Improve special education school system. Another example that relates to children is rallying for more special education services within the public school system. Understood explains that, while private school is an option for some students, the public school system may be better set up to provide special education services if it has the funding to do so.


Affording The Campaign


Marketing yourself for public office takes money. Fortunately, you likely won’t have to spend a great deal of your own money, and there are many ways to promote your cause that don’t cost a thing. To campaign on a budget:


  • Raise money ethically. Ethical fundraising is the process of collecting money from donors in the most honest and transparent way possible. You will want to establish a code of ethics, which might include forbidding aggressive tactics, making your finances available online, or committing to using excess funds as a donation to an important cause at the conclusion of your campaign.


  • Use social media. Mailers, newspaper ads, and other printed forms of advertisement are expensive. Social media isn’t. You can create an event on Facebook, for example, and make it private or public, depending on your audience. While you may spend a few dollars in online advertising to target certain demographics, it’s much less expensive than other forms of marketing.


This is certainly not a comprehensive guide to running for office as a person with a disability. However, the above talking points are great to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward a political career. Remember, you can only advocate for change if you put yourself in a position to do so. Your public office, from local aldermen to school board member, is an excellent platform. Don’t be afraid to get out and use it.


Aloha Independent Living Hawaii strives to provide independent living programs and support to persons with disabilities throughout the state. For more information or to find out how you can support the program, visit the site’s About Us Page.

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