ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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A CHRONOLOGY OF THE UNFOLDING EVENTS ABOUT THE TORONTO CENTRE FEBRUARY 4, 2010 BY-ELECTION INACCESSIBLE POLLING STATIONS SAGA

March 31, 2010

SUMMARY

It remains unbelievable that in the middle of Canada’s biggest city in 2010, a by-election took place with some polling stations that lacked full accessibility. What is the full story behind this? Here is all we know as of today’s date, plus the documentation showing this.

THE SAGA AS IT UNFOLDED

1. The Toronto Sun reported on February 5, 2010 that an inaccessible polling station was operated in the Toronto centre February 4, 2010 by-election, and that Elections Ontario denied to the Sun that the polling station was inaccessible. The article, set out below, stated:

“The polling station was in the lower floor gym of St. Joseph’s College School on Wellesley St. E. near Queen’s Park.

While the school has an elevator, there was no way to enter the voting room without travelling down stairs.

The elevator is accessed across an icy parking lot through two heavy sets of manual doors without automatic opening devices.

A spokesman for Elections Ontario told the Sun that the site is wheelchair accessible with an elevator that leads directly to the voting place.

Down stairs

During a Sun visit to the site Thursday, it was clear that voters could not enter the polling station without going down six stairs.”

2. The Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa wrote the AODA Alliance about this on February 5, 2010 (letter below), stating:

“Since our meeting, an unfortunate situation occurred in the Toronto Centre by-election where a voter had trouble accessing a poll to cast his ballot. I’m relieved that the voter managed to vote, but the challenges he experienced and the challenges others may have faced disappoints me.

As your members are well aware, we face challenges throughout the province finding accessible voting locations. Until the province becomes fully accessible, insight such as yours will help us make accommodations that meet the needs of electors with disabilities.”

3. On February 8, 2010, the AODA Alliance wrote Elections Ontario for a further explanation of how this happened, and who will be accountable for this happening. (letter set out below) We said:

“In our February 5, 2010 telephone conversation, you gave me some preliminary information on how this happened. However, it is important that Elections Ontario make public the full chain of events, and the consequences to follow. As we discussed, it is preferable for you to provide me with that information in writing, so we can circulate it to our supporters.

I regret that your response to this incident which we received via email on February 5, 2010, seems to exaggerate the difficulty facing Elections Ontario in ensuring accessible polling locations. You wrote: “As your members are well aware, we face challenges throughout the province finding accessible voting locations. Until the province becomes fully accessible, insight such as yours will help us make accommodations that meet the needs of electors with disabilities.”

We have no indication that this incident was due to any difficulty on Elections Ontario’s part in finding a fully accessible venue for this polling station. This by-election occurred in a densely developed, downtown Toronto urban riding. No matter how many inaccessible buildings there may be, it should be especially easy to find an accessible venue in such a riding.

We have told Elections Ontario in the past that we are happy to provide input on elections accessibility issues. However, in 2010, Elections Ontario should not need our input to know that if one must traverse several stairs to get to a polling station, that polling station is not accessible to persons with disabilities.

Additionally, Elections Ontario has ample time to find accessible venues for polling venues. You now know when the next general election will be. Even in the case of by-elections, there is sufficient time to ensure that venues selected for polling stations are fully accessible.

In your February 5, 2010 email to us, you also wrote: “We are actively addressing barriers all Ontarians face in the electoral process. These challenges range from informational to physical and geographical. However, an important step forward to addressing these challenges is through partnerships with organizations such as yours.”

We are delighted to partner with you and to do whatever we can to help you reach out to the broader disability community. However, I must emphasize that we have had this same discussion with Elections Ontario officials over the past decade. We have agreed to “partner” over and over again, and have offered our services to reach the disability community. It is time to stop re-inventing that same wheel, and to get on with implementing effective solutions.”

4. On February 19, 2010, the Chief Electoral Officer wrote us with this further explanation:

“In follow-up to my letter of February 5, 2010 I’m writing today with respect to the February 4, 2010 story titled “Man in wheelchair has trouble voting in Toronto Centre by-election.”

The voting location was selected for being accessible but at the last minute the school moved the room in which the polls were stationed. Elections Ontario was advised the room was accessible. However, the morning of the election our workers found this not to be the case and then made other appropriate accommodations for electors with limited mobility. Had this change been known earlier, we could have done more to assist electors on polling day.”

5. On February 9, 2010, the AODA Alliance wrote the Chief Electoral Officer to alert him that NDP candidate Cathy Crowe had reported to the AODA Alliance about further accessibility problems at other Toronto Centre polling stations. (letter set out below) The AODA Alliance had to press Mr. Essensa several times to get Elections Ontario’s position on Ms. Crowe’s reports. Over a month later, on March 18, 2010, the Chief Electoral Officer wrote the AODA Alliance with an answer on point. In substance, he said he assumed Ms. Crowe’s account was accurate. Elections Ontario did not dispute her report. He wrote: “We have also reviewed the statements in the letter Ms. Crowe, a candidate in the February 4, 2010 by-election in Toronto-Centre, sent to you after polling day. Ms. Crowe identified shortcomings at a number of polling locations. While we did not receive any complaints directly from electors about being unable to vote or encountering barriers on polling day, I must assume that everything Ms. Crowe observed was accurate. Ms. Crowe and her campaign were in contact with us concerning other matters during the by-election; I am saddened that neither she nor her campaign raised these concerns with me or the Returning Officer on polling day so that we could have addressed them while the polls were open.”

In his March 24, 2010 presentation to the Legislature’s Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly during public hearings on Bill 231, the Chief Electoral Officer said that he takes Ms. Crowe’s report of accessibility problems to be true and that these sadden him.

6. On March 23, 2010, Elections Ontario emailed David Lepofsky a copy of the report of the Returning Officer for the Toronto Centre by-election, on accessibility efforts (set out below). It appears to be dated February 11, 2010 i.e. before the Chief Electoral Officer gave the explanations set out above. It does not identify the additional inaccessibility incidents that Cathy Crowe reported, and that the Chief Electoral Officer did not dispute and takes to be true. Its only explanation of the single inaccessible polling station to which the Toronto Sun referred was as follows:

“Regular Polls

10. What percentage of your voting locations provided barrier-free/level access? If this percentage is less than 100 per cent, please provide reasons on reverse. YES

11. Did you have to build or rent a ramp, install a push button or take any other measures to make any voting location accessible? (Please explain in the comment section) NO”

“Supplementary Information for Returning Officer’s Report on Accessibility Toronto Centre By-Election

The upper gymnasium at St Joseph’s Academy on Wellesley St W. was selected at a multiple voting location. It was known to be accessible through personal inspection by the Returning Officer during the 2007 General Election.

At 1:57 pm of Feb 3, the principal of the school telephoned the residence number of the Returning Officer and left a voice mail that she was changing the venue to the lower gymnasium because of a previously scheduled volleyball game. A digital copy of this voice mail has been provided to Elections Ontario. The message was picked up by the Returning Officer between 5:30 and 5:45 pm.

On receipt of the message, the RO was immediately concerned with the possibility that the alternative venue might have accessibility issues that the main gymnasium did not have, and attempted to telephone the school and the Board for clarification. Being after business hours, these attempts produced no result. Contact was made with the SDRO who advised that he had visited the school and understood the venue to be accessible. Matters proceeded on that basis.

Around 1 or 2 pm of Election Day, February 4, to the RO’s best recollection, one of the area controllers in the Returning Office, Brian Pengelly, received a telephone enquiry concerning accessibility at the St Joseph’s MVL. The following is his report, made on February 5, the next day:

“I received a phone call in the late morning/early afternoon from a gentleman who said he was in a scooter and asked if the location was going to be accessible. I told him I would check with the SDRO at the location and call him back to make sure that everything was in place.”

“When I called the SDRO I was informed that there were 3 steps between the entrance and the voting area, which to me meant that it would not be navigatable by the scooter. I reminded the SDRO of protocol if someone could not get into the voting area, that they needed to be helped by having the Box brought out to them. Eric heard me discussing this, and told me that he knew the building was accessible, and that I should call the building manager to check. I called the manager and she informed me that it was accessible, but that it required coming through the side entrance of an attached building and through the food court. I called back the SDRO who had discovered the same thing, and asked that they put out signs to indicate that there was access through the side entrance. I then called back the gentleman who had first called and informed him of how he could get in to vote, and asked the SDRO to have her IA keep an eye out for the gentleman.”

“Brian Pengelly
February 5th 2010”

A story subsequently appeared in the Toronto Sun concerning an accessibility complaint at St. Joseph’s.

Eric Morse
Returning Officer
Toronto Centre”

7. In his March 24, 2010 presentation on Bill 231 to the Legislature’s Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly, the Chief Electoral Officer gave this explanation for the inaccessible polling station that the Toronto Sun had revealed:

Greg Essensa will turn no further back in my mind to the February 4 issue that was widely reported in the Toronto Sun. The issue on that particular day resulted as a matter of the principal notifying our returning officer at 11:00 the night before that the gymnasium that we had already inspected, already deemed to be accessible, was not going to be available because of a volleyball playoff game that had to be played in that school.

MPP Greg Sorbara: So volleyball trumped politics.

Greg Essensa: Well, the location that the principal indicated to our Returning Officer was accessible and was going to be relocated to in fact, unfortunately, turned out not to be accessible. To me, that reinforces my argument as to why the polling day should in fact be a school holiday or on a weekend. Because if that were the case, if that were the law, that issue never would have arisen. That school would not have had …

Greg Sorbara: Could we solve it by prohibiting volleyball on Election Day?...

*******

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS

TORONTO SUN FEBRUARY 5, 2010

Man in wheelchair has trouble voting in Toronto Centre by-election

By Antonella Artuso

Just a stone’s throw away from Queen’s Park — where legislators passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act just a few years ago — Elections Ontario set up a polling station that could only be accessed by going down a flight of stairs.

Local resident John Wood told the Toronto Sun that he had to abandon his wheelchair and struggle with help down the stairs to cast a ballot in the Toronto Centre by-election Thursday.

‘Able to walk a bit’

“If I hadn’t been able to walk a little bit, I wouldn’t have been able to vote,” Wood said. “It’s totally, completely not wheelchair accessible.”

The polling station was in the lower floor gym of St. Joseph’s College School on Wellesley St. E. near Queen’s Park.

While the school has an elevator, there was no way to enter the voting room without travelling down stairs.

The elevator is accessed across an icy parking lot through two heavy sets of manual doors without automatic opening devices.

A spokesman for Elections Ontario told the Sun that the site is wheelchair accessible with an elevator that leads directly to the voting place.

Down stairs

During a Sun visit to the site Thursday, it was clear that voters could not enter the polling station without going down six stairs.

At that time, an electric wheelchair without an occupant was parked at the top of the stairs.

Shortly after, an elderly and frail gentleman leaning heavily on a walker arrived with his wife to vote.

A political scrutineer scrambled to assist the man up and down the stairs as he clung to the railing, while his wife held his walker.

“Good thing you came along,” the man said. “I don’t think I’d have made it.”

Wood said someone offered to bring his ballot to him but he believes there’s no excuse for the lack of accessibility.

“You’re supposed to put your ballot in the ballot box — you’re not supposed to have a second or third party, a stranger ... doing it for you. This is Canada. We don’t do that sort of thing.”

New standards

According to the Elections Ontario website, the public agency was required as of Jan. 1 to comply with new customer accessibility standards and takes seriously its obligation to provide services available to those without disabilities.

Wood said the setup on Wellesley St. W. was “disgraceful.

“I think in 2010, especially when we have someone like (disabled lieutenant governor) David Onley in Queen’s Park, that all voting places should be completely accessible for all handicaps,” he said.

FEBRUARY 5, 2010 LETTER TO DAVID LEPOFSKY EMAILED BY CHIEF ELECTIONS OFFICER GREG ESSENSA

Dear David:

Our meeting last week was an important step forward to improving accessibility for electors in Ontario. I am pleased that we have established a relationship to collaboratively improve Elections Ontario’s services for electors with special needs.

Since our meeting, an unfortunate situation occurred in the Toronto Centre by-election where a voter had trouble accessing a poll to cast his ballot. I’m relieved that the voter managed to vote, but the challenges he experienced and the challenges others may have faced disappoints me.

As your members are well aware, we face challenges throughout the province finding accessible voting locations. Until the province becomes fully accessible, insight such as yours will help us make accommodations that meet the needs of electors with disabilities.

I recognize the history of discrimination against persons with disabilities in the province, and the fundamental importance of developing, implementing and enforcing standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

We are actively addressing barriers all Ontarians face in the electoral process. These challenges range from informational to physical and geographical. However, an important step forward to addressing these challenges is through partnerships with organizations such as yours.

As the Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario, I am committed to improving elections in this province for all Ontarians who may experience barriers to voting, including electors with special needs. I share your concerns and am dedicated to achieving equitable access to voting for all.

My staff are in the process of scheduling another meeting with you in the coming weeks to address some of these challenges. We are also planning to meet with organizations such as yours and I’m encouraged by the prospects of these discussions.

Regards,

Greg

Greg Essensa
Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario

*****

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
New Email Address: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

February 8, 2010

Mr. Greg Essensa, Chief Electoral Officer
Elections Ontario
51 Rolark Drive
Scarborough, Ontario
M1R 3B1
facsimile (416) 326-6200
email greg.essensa@elections.on.ca

Dear Mr. Essensa,

Re: Ensuring Fully Accessible Elections for Voters and Candidates with Disabilities

I write as a result of our January 26, 2010 meeting, and of our February 5, 2010 telephone discussions about the inaccessible polling station Elections Ontario operated during the February 4, 2010 Toronto by-election.

We are deeply troubled by Elections Ontario’s operating an inaccessible polling station in the February 4, 2010 by-election. This was made worse by Elections Ontario’s telling the Toronto Sun on February 5, 2010 that the polling station was accessible – a claim which evidently turns out to be untrue.

As you know from our January 26, 2010 meeting, our coalition and its predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, have been campaigning for over a decade for Ontario to ensure fully accessible municipal and provincial elections for voters and candidates with disabilities. This is a fundamental constitutional right. No one disputes that voters and candidates with disabilities should have this right honoured. No one claims that it is not possible for this right to be honoured and respected, with appropriate planning and attention.

We appreciated at our January 26, 2010 meeting that you expressed your strong commitment to ensuring the full accessibility of Ontario elections, and your saying that this is a high priority for you and for Elections Ontario. We pointed out at that meeting, however, that we have received comparable commitments from Elections Ontario time and again over the past decade. As the events in the subsequent February 4, 2010 Toronto by-election show, such sincere statements of commitment have not, do not, and will not be sufficient to ensure that the right to fully participate in elections will be honoured for voters and candidates with disabilities.

As we discussed on February 5, 2010, the Ontario Government’s approach to date has been to trust Elections Ontario to do the right thing. That approach is reflected in Bill 231, now before the Legislature. That approach has not worked. People with disabilities deserve better.

The use of an inaccessible polling station on February 4 was entirely unacceptable. Regrettably, it was, to us, unsurprising. Elections Ontario does not have a stellar track record in this regard. Elections Ontario’s public report on the accessibility of the 2007 Ontario election revealed that a survey of voters with disabilities, commissioned by Elections Ontario itself, found the following: “a key finding of the survey is that compared to other electors, voters with disabilities report, in general, higher than average problems at voting locations. Forty-four per cent of voters with special needs said they experienced problems at their voting locations and 15 per cent said they had problems casting their ballots, a stark contrast to eight per cent and one per cent respectively for electors in general.” We discussed that survey finding with you at our January 26, 2010 meeting.

To address this problem, it is important as a first step for Elections Ontario to fully and promptly account to the public, including the disability community, on how this incident occurred. Who at Elections Ontario approved or condoned the use of an inaccessible venue for voting? It would have been obvious while voting was occurring that there were stairs that had to be traversed to get to vote. How many voters were adversely affected by this barrier, either by having difficulty voting, or by leaving without voting at all? When did any Elections Ontario officials, including those working at the polling station, first realize this? Was Elections Ontario headquarters notified of this? If not, why not? If so, why did Elections Ontario not intervene to rectify this?

Who at Elections Ontario told the Sun newspapers that the venue was accessible? Had that person checked their facts? What safeguards are in place to prevent such incorrect information from being released to the public? Why didn’t those safeguards work?

What consequences will there be for the Elections Ontario officials whose error or omission led to this inexcusable incident? As you and I discussed on the phone on February 5, 2010, when voters with disabilities are denied their constitutional right to vote on Election Day, that loss is irreparable. They cannot come back the next day to cast their vote. The election is over.

Elections Ontario’s duty to ensure fully accessible polling stations is obvious and clear. This failure should have been obvious. There should be consequences, beyond an apology and yet another commitment that this won’t happen again.

In our February 5, 2010 telephone conversation, you gave me some preliminary information on how this happened. However, it is important that Elections Ontario make public the full chain of events, and the consequences to follow. As we discussed, it is preferable for you to provide me with that information in writing, so we can circulate it to our supporters.

I regret that your response to this incident which we received via email on February 5, 2010, seems to exaggerate the difficulty facing Elections Ontario in ensuring accessible polling locations. You wrote: “As your members are well aware, we face challenges throughout the province finding accessible voting locations. Until the province becomes fully accessible, insight such as yours will help us make accommodations that meet the needs of electors with disabilities.”

We have no indication that this incident was due to any difficulty on Elections Ontario’s part in finding a fully accessible venue for this polling station. This by-election occurred in a densely developed, downtown Toronto urban riding. No matter how many inaccessible buildings there may be, it should be especially easy to find an accessible venue in such a riding.

We have told Elections Ontario in the past that we are happy to provide input on elections accessibility issues. However, in 2010, Elections Ontario should not need our input to know that if one must traverse several stairs to get to a polling station, that polling station is not accessible to persons with disabilities.

Additionally, Elections Ontario has ample time to find accessible venues for polling venues. You now know when the next general election will be. Even in the case of by-elections, there is sufficient time to ensure that venues selected for polling stations are fully accessible.

In your February 5, 2010 email to us, you also wrote: “We are actively addressing barriers all Ontarians face in the electoral process. These challenges range from informational to physical and geographical. However, an important step forward to addressing these challenges is through partnerships with organizations such as yours.”

We are delighted to partner with you and to do whatever we can to help you reach out to the broader disability community. However, I must emphasize that we have had this same discussion with Elections Ontario officials over the past decade. We have agreed to “partner” over and over again, and have offered our services to reach the disability community. It is time to stop re-inventing that same wheel, and to get on with implementing effective solutions.

This is not the only preventable barrier that faced voters with disabilities in the February 4, 2010 Toronto by-election. Elections Ontario has acquired a prototype voting machine that lets voters with disabilities, such as blindness, mark their ballots independently and verify their vote. Yet Elections Ontario deliberately did not deploy this machine in this by-election, even though it had deployed it in the one or two most recent previous by-elections. It would have cost nothing to make that machine available at one central voting location during the February 4, 2010 by-election, and to let the public know that voters could come and use it.

At our January 26, 2010 meeting, we asked why Elections Ontario would not be deploying that prototype voting machine in this by-election. As we understand it, you said this was because your only legal mandate was to deploy such technology to study it, and Elections Ontario has already studied this machine in two by-elections. It seems to us that with the pervasiveness of barriers against voters with disabilities, further study of that machine in an actual by-election would remain useful, and would help remove a well-known barrier to independent voting.

We doubt that anyone would protest that voting machine’s deployment on such dubious legal grounds. Any legal barrier to that machine’s use flies in the face of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Charter of Rights. So impoverished an approach to Elections Ontario’s duties to persons with disabilities is neither warranted nor helpful.

Beyond accounting publicly for this incident, we suggest these steps:

1. We ask Elections Ontario to join in our public call for Bill 231 to be strengthened, to ensure that effective measures are permanently in place to ensure fully accessible elections into the future. These measures should be detailed, mandatory and monitored.

We very much appreciate your offering to me to meet to discuss working out a common agenda for amendments to Bill 231. We look forward to collaborating on this as soon as possible. It would help us prepare if you could let us know what amendments to Bill 231 you believe might be worth proposing on this issue.

2. We ask Elections Ontario to join in our call for public hearings on Bill 231, to give the public, including the broad disability community, a full and accessible opportunity for input into this legislation. We know that Elections Ontario will want an opportunity to appear at public hearings on that bill. Elections Ontario should endorse the right of the disability community to have the same opportunity.

3. We urge Elections Ontario to promptly make public its existing research on options for making elections fully accessible in Ontario. As discussed at our January 26, 2010 meeting, we also urge Elections Ontario to promptly further research options for reform in this area that have been explored in the United States. After the 2000 U.S. elections mess, there evidently have been millions of dollars appropriated to research elections and voting reform, including in the area of disability accessibility.

We also propose that Elections Ontario make public any further research it does in this area, to aid the Government and the disability community in making submissions for reform to Bill 231 to the Government. Time is of the essence. Bill 231 is already before the Legislature, and the next provincial election is only 18 months away.

We would like this very troubling recent incident to serve as a catalyst for long-overdue legislative reforms to ensure barrier-free elections for voters and candidates with disabilities. We are long past needing to prove that barriers continue to exist. These barriers are obvious, well known, and readily preventable. It is time for creative, effective and enforceable legislative solutions.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont, Chair AODA Alliance

cc: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier, fax 416-325-9895, email mcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Madeleine Meilleur, Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-3347, email madeleine.meilleur@ontario.ca
James Bradley, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-5240, email mailto:marg.rappolt@ontario.ca
Chris Bentley, Attorney General, fax (416) 326-4007, email cbentley.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Greg Sorbara, Chair, Select Committee on Elections, fax (416) 212-1025, email gsorbara.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate, fax (416) 325-9620, email Ellen.Waxman@ontario.ca
Fareed Amin, Deputy Minister, Municipal Affairs and Housing, fax (416) 585-7211, email Fareed.Amin@ontario.ca
Ernie Bartucci, Assistant Deputy Minister, Health, Social, Environmental & National Institutions, fax (416) 325-4788, email ernie.bartucci@ontario.ca
Tim Lewis, Director, Democratic Institutions Policy, fax (416) 325-4773, email tim.lewis@ontario.ca
Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition, fax (416) 325-0491, email tim.hudak.co@pc.ola.org
Andrea Horwath, Third P

*****

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
New Email Address: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

February 9, 2010

Mr. Greg Essensa, Chief Electoral Officer
Elections Ontario
51 Rolark Drive
Scarborough, Ontario
M1R 3B1
facsimile (416) 326-6200
email greg.essensa@elections.on.ca

Dear Sir,

Re: Accessibility of the February 4, 2010 By-Election to Voters with Disabilities

We received a February 8, 2010 email, set out below, from the NDP candidate in the February 4, 2010 Toronto area by-election. It describes information about other accessibility problems in that by-election, beyond the incident that the Toronto Sun has covered to date. It states:

“Hello, my name is Cathy Crowe. I was the NDP candidate in the Toronto Centre by-election Feb. 4. Prior to E-Day I held a press conference in St. Jamestown pointing out that 3 polling locations for 9,000 voters was not acceptable. On E-Day itself I personally visited 15 polling locations and discovered further impediments for voters. I was shocked to discover that one-third of the sites I visited were not fully accessible.

They were:

1) St. Simon's, 525 Bloor St. East. This location was only visibly and truly accessible from Bloor Street where you would have to walk in or be driven as it is elevated from street level. Here I witnessed several people lifting a person in a non-motorized wheelchair up steps on the north side. This voter had approached the polling station from the St. Jamestown community of the south. On the south site, on Howard Street there was another entrance to St. Simon's but no access from the street as curbs were not accessible. Inside the church voting was in the basement. There was an elevator.

2) Rose Avenue School, 675 Ontario St. Access to the gymnasium polling station was by a downward ramp on the north side. There were patches of ice. It was difficult to find the entrance to the polling station. Upon entry the inner doors were blocked by hula-hoops that had fallen on the ground. Only one of the two inner doors was open. I asked a DRO staff to clear the area to improve access.

3) Wellesley Community Centre, 495 Sherbourne St. There are stairs to this main floor gym polling station. Other flat access is far to the rear, involving a long hike around to north entrance to gym. I did not see signage to demonstrate this access.

4) St. Martin's Public School, 55 Salisbury. Steps to front entrance. DRO and Security Guard were not able to show me better access - then suggested it was to north and rear of school through parking lot. No signage to this effect.

5) St. Joseph's College School - basement site. Many stairs. Basement was about 40 degrees Celsius. Workers there were impacted by heat. I was unable to find better access. This is the site the SUN reported on.

I did take some pictures of several of the sites but my camera disappeared. They could be easily duplicated.

I will certainly follow-up as you have suggested.

Cathy Crowe”

We write to ask what Elections Ontario’s position is regarding the specific information set out in that email. We would appreciate hearing back from you as soon as possible on this important issue.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont, Chair AODA Alliance

cc: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier, fax 416-325-9895, email dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Madeleine Meilleur, Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-3347, email madeleine.meilleur@ontario.ca
James Bradley, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, email jbradley.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-5240, email marg.rappolt@ontario.ca
Chris Bentley, Attorney General, fax (416) 326-4007, email cbentley.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Greg Sorbara, Chair, Select Committee on Elections, fax (416) 212-1025, email gsorbara.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate, fax (416) 325-9620, email Ellen.Waxman@ontario.ca
Fareed Amin, Deputy Minister, Municipal Affairs and Housing, fax (416) 585-7211, email Fareed.Amin@ontario.ca
Ernie Bartucci, Assistant Deputy Minister, Health, Social, Environmental & National Institutions, fax (416) 325-4788, email ernie.bartucci@ontario.ca
Tim Lewis, Director, Democratic Institutions Policy, fax (416) 325-4773, email tim.lewis@ontario.ca
Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition, fax (416) 325-0491, email olo@pc.ola.org
Andrea Horwath, Third Party Leader, email ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca

*****

Office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario Bureau du directeur général des électionsde l’Ontario

February 19, 2010

David Lepofsky, Chair AODA Alliance
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M4G 3E8

Dear David:

Thank you for your letters sent February 8 and February 9, 2010.

In follow-up to my letter of February 5, 2010 I’m writing today with respect to the February 4, 2010 story titled “Man in wheelchair has trouble voting in Toronto Centre by-election”.

The voting location was selected for being accessible but at the last minute the school moved the room in which the polls were stationed. Elections Ontario was advised the room was accessible. However, the morning of the election our workers found this not to be the case and then made other appropriate accommodations for electors with limited mobility. Had this change been known earlier, we could have done more to assist electors on polling day.

We are reviewing the matters you have raised in your letters to determine how we can better serve electors.

We look forward to working with organizations such as yours. We are going to be conducting consultations in the next few months with organizations representing all communities in Ontario to enhance our programs and services.

Regards,

Greg Essensa
Chief Electoral Officer

cc: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier
Hon. Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community & Social Services
Hon. James Bradley, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Hon. Chris Bentley, Attorney General
Greg Sorbara, Chair, Select Committee on Elections
Tim Hudak, Leader, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
Andrea Horwath, Leader, New Democratic Party of Ontario
Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate
Fareed Amin, Deputy Minister, Municipal Affairs and Housing
Ernie Bartucci, Assistant Deputy Minister, Health, Social, Environmental & National Institutions
Tim Lewis, Director, Democratic Institutions Policy

*****

March 18, 2010

Mr. David Lepofsky, Chair AODA Alliance
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

Thank you for your letter dated March 12, 2010.

I will be appearing before the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly on March 24, 2010 to make my submission regarding Bill 231.

I am an independent Officer of the Legislative Assembly, and as I know you will appreciate, I must be non-partisan and make my submissions independently. I understand that you plan to make submissions to the committee regarding Bill 231 and I look forward to reading them. However, you have asked me to make joint representations with your organization and I cannot do so as that would not be in keeping with the independence of my office.

We are in the process, as you know from the correspondence you have received from my executive assistant, of supplying you with the accessibility reports made under s. 55.1 of the Election Act in respect of the 2007 General Election.

We have also reviewed the statements in the letter Ms. Crowe, a candidate in the February 4, 2010 by-election in Toronto-Centre, sent to you after polling day. Ms. Crowe identified shortcomings at a number of polling locations. While we did not receive any complaints directly from electors about being unable to vote or encountering barriers on polling day, I must assume that everything Ms. Crowe observed was accurate. Ms. Crowe and her campaign were in contact with us concerning other matters during the by-election; I am saddened that neither she nor her campaign raised these concerns with me or the Returning Officer on polling day so that we could have addressed them while the polls were open.

To my mind, this speaks to two things we are addressing.

First, we need to ensure that we do more to let electors know they can contact Elections Ontario if they are experiencing difficulty with access at a polling location to obtain appropriate assistance.

Second, we need to have appropriate service standards and processes in place. Elections Ontario needs to have better standards for selecting accessible voting locations, removing barriers, and inspecting locations during the course of polling day.

Thank you for raising these matters with me.

Sincerely,

Greg Essensa
Chief Electoral Officer

cc: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier
Hon. Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community & Social Services
Hon. James Bradley, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Greg Sorbara, Chair, Select Committee on Elections
Tim Hudak, Leader, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
Andrea Horwath, Leader, New Democratic Party of Ontario
Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate
Tim Lewis, Director, Democratic Institutions Policy
Dana Richardson, Interim Deputy Minister, Municipal Affairs and Housing

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RETURNING OFFICER’S REPORT ON ACCESSIBILITY (F0247)

ED Name: Toronto Centre
ED#: 094
Date: 11/02/10
Section 1: FACILITIES
Returning Office

1. Did you ensure that your returning office provided barrier-free/level access? YES

2. Did you have to build or rent a ramp or install a push button to make your office accessible? NO

3. Did you take any other measures to make your office accessible? (Please explain in the comments section) NO. Notes: None Required

Satellite Office(s)

4. Did you ensure that your satellite office(s) provided barrier-free/level access? N/A

5. Did you have to build or rent a ramp, install a push button or take any other measures to make your satellite office(s) accessible? (Please explain in the comment section) N/A

Training Site(s)

6. Did you ensure that your training site(s) provided barrier-free/level access? YES

7. Did you have to build or rent a ramp, install a push button or take any other measures to make your training site(s) accessible?(Please explain in the comment section) NO

Advance Polls

8. Did you ensure that all advance poll voting locations provided barrier-free/level access? YES

9. Did you have to build or rent a ramp, install a push button or take any other measures to make your advance poll site(s) accessible? (Please explain in the comment section) NO

Regular Polls

10. What percentage of your voting locations provided barrier-free/level access? If this percentage is less than 100 per cent, please provide reasons on reverse. YES

11. Did you have to build or rent a ramp, install a push button or take any other measures to make any voting location accessible? (Please explain in the comment section) NO

12. Were any of the ballot boxes moved to accommodate the elderly or electors with disabilities? YES. Notes: One school changed venue at last moment. Still accessible but by side entrance

Special Care Facilities

13. How many voting locations were in special care facilities? Notes: 6

14. In how many locations was the ballot box moved to accommodate the elderly or electors with disabilities? Notes: 6

Section 2: PERSONNEL

15. Were any persons with disabilities employed in your office? YES

16. Were any persons with disabilities appointed as poll officials? YES

Section 3: MATERIALS

Returning Office

17. Did you ensure that the following materials provided by Elections Ontario were made available to electors?

a) Voter Information – Large Print YES

b) Voter Information – Braille YES

18. Did you have to build or rent a ramp, install a push button or take any other measures to make your advance poll site(s) accessible? (Please explain in the comments section) NO

Voting Locations

19. Did you ensure that the kits provided to poll officials contained the following aids?

a) Ballot Templates (E0590) YES

b) Wheelchair Symbol (F0512) YES

c) Magnifying Sheet (E0621) YES

d) Pictograph Poster (E0820) YES

Section 3: OUTREACH

20. Were you in contact with any groups representing persons with disabilities within your ED? YES

21. Were you contacted by anyone requesting access to American Sign Language Interpreters? NO

Section 4: COMMENTS (Please number your answers to correspond with the questions.)