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The Disability Caucus came about as a result of a meeting between Congressman Jim Langevin of Rhode Island and THEN Vancouver mayor, Sam Sullivan.

Both are tetraiplegic and they agreed that a forum that could bring politicians with disabilities together would be useful.

The goals of the Disability Caucus are to:
1. Encourage more people with disabilities to enter elected public office.
2. Provide a forum to discuss disability issues.

At its first inaugural meeting members recognized that people with disabilities were experiencing the same sorts of issues in both Canada and the United States. In addition to Jim Langevin and Sam Sullivan, the founding members included: Steven Fletcher, Federal Member of Parliament, Winnipeg; Representative Tom Kennedy, Massachusetts Legislature; and Tim Louis, City Councillor, Vancouver, Canada.

Encouraging Other Disabled People to Elected Office
People with disabilities have been effective in many communities across North America in lobbying for more inclusive societies through advocacy organizations and personal initiative. People with disabilities have also taken their place in the civil service of many governments. Both of these roles have helped improve the lives of all disabled people.

The Disability Caucus believes that more people with disabilities need to take their place in seeking and attaining public office. This will be an important symbol of the full participation by disabled people in the life of community and will go a long way to ensuring that disability issues get adequate attention from political leaders.

Prerequisites to Elected Public Office

“Politician” is one of the few professions, which has no formal academic requirements. One of the most important indicators of success is a history of community service. People with disabilities who are serious about collective political life should involve themselves in their community in a variety of ways. Contribution to the disability community through volunteering for advocacy groups is an excellent way to start in community service.

Aspiring candidates should also realize that serious individuals would also need to broaden their knowledge and constituencies by serving in capacities outside of the disability community. Every effort should be made to expand one’s knowledge of a broad variety of disciplines, such as economics, sociology, psychology, philosophy and history.

Not everyone is suited for elected public office as there are many elements that are essential. These will often change from election to election. But certain attributes are useful for those interested in public office. Do you have a constituency of people who believe in you and respect your motivations and capabilities? Are you able to work well with people? Can you inspire others to work toward a common goal?

In most jurisdictions, political office is determined through political parties. Aspiring politicians should choose the party that best represents their ideals and should volunteer in some capacity. By getting involved in political organizations during election time much can be learned and relationships can be established that could be useful at a future time. Only a very few in any political party will attain the role of candidate but involvement in the political process is an immensely rewarding experience that can give any citizen a better knowledge of how their government works and a network of people who are committed to their community.

If you are a person with a disability interested in politics please let us know. If you are interested in running for public office and have questions for members of the Disability Caucus please send a note and a bio or resume. One of the members will try to respond as time permits. One of the features of elected public office is that the responsibilities and pressures are great. If you do not receive a response do not be offended as the first duty of the elected official is to his/her constituency. Your question will be considered and we may respond through our general website.

Members
  Sam Sullivan
Mayor (former), MLA
Vancouver,
British Columbia
  Steven Fletcher
MP (former)
Manitoba, Canada
  Tom Kennedy
State Representative
Massachusetts, U.S.A.
  Jim Langevin
State Representative
Rhode Island, U.S.A.
  Tim Louis
City Councillor (former)
Vancouver,
British Columbia
  Doug Mowat
Member (honorary)
Legislative Assembly
British Columbia
  Nancy Starnes
Mayor (former)
Sparta, New Jersey