There Should Be No Barriers to Voting in Ontario

April 16, 2010

Bill 231, a series of amendments to the Election Act, is now before the legislature, but it is not enough to take into account the full needs of voters
with disabilities.

Statistically the number with disabilities is a 1:7 ratio. Not one of us knows today if we will fit into this number be it from stroke, accident or worsening
health. Let’s act today for tomorrow.

There is reference to some new ways for people with disabilities to vote, but there is no guarantee of a secret ballot.

A secret ballot is the most basic of all democratic responsibilities and rights.

Why does Canada and Ontario not include people with disabilities in their thinking when making decisions as to voting sites?

In a Toronto byelection a couple of months ago, one determined voter had to leave his chair and grapple, with help, down a stairway to cast his ballot.

Others struggle to reach the ballot box or even be able to see the ballot and know where to place their mark.

Elections Ontario officials say they are trying to do better. Let us hope they follow the law as written.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities 2005 (AODA) is law and under it are standards that are now law. Other standards are being worked on by committees.

The customer service standard is law and within this standard are provisions for picking locations that are fully accessible.

There is a need politically to follow this standard and choose sites that are truly accessible.

There are portable polling stations for nursing homes, hospitals and even prisons, so those who cannot get out to a polling station can vote.

Why not accommodate the people with disabilities in the same manner?

As chairperson of the accessibility advisory committee for Whitchurch-Stouffville, I know every provision is being made to accommodate people with disabilities
so each site is accessible.

Our committee will be reviewing each of the sites to assure they meet the needs of people with disabilities.

I want to commend the town on its forward thinking and hope that the legislators are as forward thinking when they make the amendments to Bill 231.

Daily, people with disabilities face barriers often in getting where they need to go.

Let’s not make the voting procedure one of the barriers.

Heather Andrews


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