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Disability for Political Campaigns – a Forgotten Constituency, an Opportunity for Change

The disability community is, perhaps, one of the largest, yet most neglected constituencies in our society. Addressing their issues is not just the right thing to do, it is also smart politics.
First, thank you for running for office. I’ve helped with several political and advocacy campaigns and, as the tired line goes, some of my best friends are politicians… I know what a huge amount of work you’re taking on – and that it will only get harder when you win.

One Degree of Separation –  1 in 5 people are disabled.

Disabled people make up more than 20 percent of your voters (in some communities, over 25 percent)..plus their families, friends, and allies. Disability issues cross party lines and they do not feel well served by politicians (1).
You can change that.

Starting with the basics

Addressing the needs of the disability community, at least for your campaign, isn’t hard. Good will and commitment  account for a lot.

Be aggressively accessible

1. Make sure your web site, communications, and events are accessible.

Web accessibility guidelines can look intimidating, but, once you get started, it isn’t hard.

2. Don’t use overlays

(as with everything else, there aren’t short cuts)

3. Use ALT tags for images

Improves accessibility and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

4. Provide Captions (and transcripts) for videos and online events.

BONUS: Many people have their phones muted for videos, so captions pull readers in and yields 17% higher engagement (2 and 3)

5. For meetings, always have an accessibility strategy and a contact for unique accessibility needs (and a plan to meet them).

Nothing shows that you care like caring.

6. For live meetings, record and provide a transcript

Good for those who can’t attend whether disabled or not, also helpful for immunocompromised.

BONUS – smart marketing and re-use of your work and a great way to build content for other purposes and platforms.

7.  Reach out to disability organizations for meetings

… an undertapped audience who will value your attention (Centers for Independent Living and many other groups for disabled adults, elderly, and parents of disabled children/special education through typical organizations like PTAs and informal Social Media and other groups)

8. Disabled Volunteers

welcome and encourage disabled volunteers, unfortunately, high unemployment rates (top texter story from CA?), they may need more flexible schedules (5,6).

9. Disability Issues

Are often not just disability issues (elderly, children, flexible work,… the issues touch everyone and are potentially widely appealing):
Healthcare, Civil rights / discrimination, Accessibility (public spaces, jobs, services), Benefits, Housing (accessibility, affordability), Employment (there is a persistent 40 percent employment gap for disabled adults), Long term care / personal assistance (availability, self-determination, Home and Community Based Services), Education (Special Education, quality, services, accountability),  Assistive technology, Transportation (accessibility and availability)

Walking the Talk

If you add a disability/special education page or disability related press release to your campaign site, send me a link… we’re not doing endorsements (yet) but I’ll happily amplify your attention to the issues.

Questions?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers on disability, but I do try to keep my eyes open on what people are doing and what some of the current issues are. I’m working on a newsletter and you are welcome to email me.
Thank you again for running for office.
All my best.
Steve

Additional Resources

1. Just 3 in 10 Disabled Voters Believe Leaders in Washington, D.C. Care About People with Disabilities, Finds New TCF and Data for Progress Poll – https://tcf.org/content/commentary/just-3-in-10-disabled-voters-believe-leaders-in-washington-d-c-care-about-people-with-disabilities-finds-new-tcf-and-data-for-progress-poll/
2. Why Everyone Is Watching TV with Closed Captioning On These Days
3. Closed Captions For Marketing: Why Every Marketer Should Be Utilizing Them
4. CripTheVote Survey Search results – https://cripthevote.blogspot.com/search/label/Surveys
5. Can Do: A Guide to involving young disabled people as volunteers
6. Including People with Disabilities in Your Political Campaign: A Guide for Campaign Staff

7. The A-Z of Effective, Inclusive Campaigns
https://www.inclusivecampaigns.org/

9. Open Campaign Library

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