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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Introducing the Elevate Blog

Elevate Logo - Campaign Training for People with Disabilities. Graphic features the US Capitol Rotunda.

In 2017, you couldn’t find any information online on running for office with a disability. There were no campaign training programs for people with disabilities. There weren’t many news stories on candidates with disabilities. It seemed like learning how to run for office with a disability was a well-kept secret.

At the same time, more Americans became interested in running for office. More than twice as many women ran for Congress in 2018 than in 2016. Programs that teach people how to run for office became more popular. New campaign training programs were created. There were campaign trainings for members of different political parties. There were campaign training programs for different identities, like people of color and first-generation Americans. These great resources grew and trained more and more Americans to run for office. Still, there was a major information gap for people with disabilities.

At NCIL, we decided that it was time to fix this problem. Diverse leadership is important because the government’s decisions impact many parts of our lives. Elected officials decide how to run our towns and cities. They make decisions about public transit and schools. They decide how to use our tax dollars and create the laws that govern our society. People with disabilities should be involved in making those decisions.

For two years, I interviewed candidates with disabilities. I learned about how they ran their campaigns and the challenges they faced. What I learned made it even clearer that we need a campaign training program for people with disabilities. In 2019, I teamed up with Neal Carter of Nu View Consulting to solve this problem. We created Elevate, the first and only campaign training for people with disabilities. Hundreds of people tuned into the five Elevate webinars or watched the recordings on our website.

I’m thrilled to say that we will be continuing Elevate in 2021.  We’re working hard to improve the program based on the feedback we received in 2019. We are so excited to continue training people with disabilities to run for office.

Creating this program is challenging because there is no one “disability experience.” A candidate who is a wheelchair user will have a different experience from a Deaf candidate. A candidate who is blind has needs that are different from the needs of a candidate who has chronic pain. The campaign process for one person may look different from the campaign process for another person. So how can we learn about these different experiences?

We can learn by talking to people with disabilities, of course! In this blog, we will interview candidates, volunteers, and staff with disabilities about their experiences. We will also answer common questions about running for office. We will talk about what you need to think about if you want to run for office or join a campaign.

It’s clear that the disability community has a passion for civic engagement. With the right tools and knowledge, we can take that passion and commitment beyond the ballot box. We can represent our community in elected office or on a campaign. We can effect change.

We’re excited about starting this blog, and we want your input! What would you like us to talk about? Send your questions to:

Sarah Blahovec
sarah@ncil.org
202-207-0334 extension 1103

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