Many people with disabilities struggle with feeling underrepresented in their local, state, and national governments. This is a serious problem – there are very few people with disabilities in office at every level. Although able-bodied politicians may be perfectly well-meaning when it comes to disability advocacy, true representation often makes the biggest difference.
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If you have a disability and big ideas for how to make your community safer and more accessible, consider running for office. You can be the change your community needs to truly thrive. Citizen Media News takes a look at some of the best techniques you can use for a successful run:
Treat Your Campaign Like a Business
Working as a public official is a job, but the work starts well before you get elected. You need to take your campaign as seriously as possible from the very start. This means hiring a dedicated staff who can help you manage your campaign and give it the best chance for success. An experienced campaign manager – ideally one who has worked with marginalized candidates in the past – will be your greatest ally on the campaign trail.
Remember, the right tools and technology can make a big difference when it comes to managing your staff. For example, you can save time and money with project management software and a synced calendar app.
Create Your Platform
Next, put in work to figure out your stance on the issues that apply to your community. The best way to identify needs your policies can fill is to talk to people in your area. Take care to talk directly to people with disabilities, as well as other marginalized groups, in order to get a sense of which of their needs remain unaddressed by their representatives up to now.
Remember to ask about specific issues as well, such as housing, transportation, and education. Taking a look at these kinds of topics can help you to identify accessibility issues that your constituency face in their everyday lives. In doing so, you can build a fuller, more complete campaign that gets at the root of the issues facing your community.
Listen to Your Body
Finally, it’s crucial to take care of yourself while campaigning. Running for office can take a lot out of you and, depending on your disability, that can put you in a precarious position. It’s important to give yourself plenty of opportunities for self-care. Without it, you can wind up extremely vulnerable to poor mental health, and can even lower your immunity to infections. Stress is normal while campaigning, but you must have ways of managing and reducing that stress in order to thrive.
First and foremost, this means listening to your body. If several campaign events in a row leave you exhausted, spread events out so you can pace yourself more. Knocking yourself out or working until you’re in pain isn’t going to do your campaign any favors. Use mobility aids and other assistive devices to get the help you need to keep yourself safe and healthy. Many people with disabilities are hesitant to appear visibly disabled while campaigning, but being honest with your needs will show others you’re going to take their needs seriously, too. Whenever you return from the campaign trail, make sure your home is a stress-free space where you’re able to relax without tension. This starts with organizing and decluttering, but adding some mood-enhancing plants helps as well.
When it comes to making a change in your community, representation matters. By running for office, you can be the voice others with disabilities need. We hope this article gives you the information you need to figure out if this is the right move for you and, if so, to seize your opportunity.
Julia Merrill is a retired board-certified nurse practitioner. In her many years in the medical field, she experienced the challenges that a lot of patients come across when dealing with their medical care. She made it her goal to bridge the gap between those who receive care and those who provide it. One of the biggest things she has learned is that doctors are human. They may not always know the answers to what is ailing their patients that is why it is so important for the patient to be concise, honest, and organized when seeking treatment. She would like to share some tips that she has developed to help you be your own advocate in seeking medical care, dealing with insurance companies, and how to make sure you are contributing to your own health and well-being.
Her advice to you? Befriend Your Doc!
This website is not intended to replace medical treatment or advice. If you have any questions related to your health, please contact your physician.
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