Disability Voices: Use the Podium to Get Your Message Across
by Ed Carter, AbleFutures.org
As a person with a disability, you’re probably used to advocating for yourself. But, there are many others who do not or cannot do the same. If you’re looking to use your voice to make the world (or even just your community) a more equal playing field, then consider running for a political office.
Setting an Eye on an Office
There are many reasons that an individual with a disability might want to run for office. You might, for example, want to push for ability, racial, or gender equality in the workplace. You may have already joined a community action committee through Multnomah Democrats, or you may have set back and watched as certain demographics were treated unequally. Whatever your reasons, you have your work cut out for you.
Preparing Yourself for the Crowds
If you’ve already decided to run for office, whether it’s a position as an alderman or a member of your local school board, you must first take a close look at yourself. Decide if you are eligible for the office and which are running. Keep in mind that some may have geographic restrictions, so might have to live within city limits to run for certain offices. You also want to make sure that you are educated and knowledgeable about hot-button issues.
If you think you need to improve your knowledge base, consider going back to school. You can earn your doctorate online while you continue to take care of your family, volunteer, and earn a living. Think about the degree you want, and choose one that will have the biggest impact on your community. For example, a doctorate in education if your schools have been neglected. Having an education that supports the issues that are important to you might put you in a better position to win your office.
You’ll also need to pay close attention to your public image. According to Social Benchers, this is especially important in the digital age. Your image must showcase your knowledge about the current state of affairs as well as accurately showcase your identity and alliances. Let your personality and passions shine through, and you’ll be better able to connect with voters.
Funding Your Endeavors
You will have to pay to get your name out to the public. This means fundraising. There are many different ways to do this, and Fundly suggests selling T-shirts, hosting community events, and taking donations from businesses for a silent auction. No matter how you choose to raise funds, you must be transparent and keep meticulous records. Your donors should have access to see how all of their donations were spent, from the cost of maintaining an online presence to the amount of monies that aren’t on campaign events and rallies.
Using Your Position for Good
Once you are on the radar of the voters, you can use your elevated status for good. Even if you do not win your election, you can begin to build a network and rally the troops to affect change within your community. Remember, it is an opportunity to serve and you never know when your actions at the local level will spur change at the federal level. You may also serve as inspiration for underrepresented voters, namely blue-collar workers, to get out and make their own changes instead of waiting on change that may never come if left in the hands of their current politicians.
Making changes is never easy, but important issues can’t be left to chance. Doesn’t matter if you’re simply wanting to slow outside growth from coming into your neighborhood or have broader goals, such as eradicating childhood poverty, starting with a hometown election is a great way to get the ball rolling. Remember, change is not always comfortable, but it’s necessary for growth.
Ed Carter has worked with clients of all ages, backgrounds and incomes. About 10 years into his career, he saw a need for financial planners who specialize in helping individuals and families living with disabilities.
Connect with Ed ablefutures.org.