ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO

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AODA ALLIANCE PRESENTS BRIEF ON BARRIERS TO VOTING TO LEGISLATURE’S SELECT COMMITTEE ON ELECTIONS – SELECT COMMITTEE REPORT ACKNOWLEDGES NEED FOR SOLUTIONS

July 27, 2009

SUMMARY

For over ten years, the ODA Committee, followed by its successor, the AODA Alliance, and others within Ontario’s disability community, have been trying to secure the removal of barriers that impede voters with disabilities and candidates with disabilities from fully participating in elections in Ontario. These barriers can arise in municipal or provincial elections.

In the 2007 Ontario election campaign, we asked all three political parties to commit, if elected, to develop an accessible elections action plan. All three parties agreed. In his September 14, 2007 letter to the AODA Alliance, Premier McGuinty promised that “…we will commit to developing an action plan to make elections fully accessible to voters with disabilities.”

Ontarians with disabilities have very good reason to be troubled by this inaccessibility problem. Voters with disabilities can share personal anecdotes about problems they have faced when trying to exercise their right to vote.

In addition, we now have official proof of this problem’s enormity. After the 2007 election, Elections Ontario was required to produce a report on the accessibility of that election to people with disabilities. In June 2008, it rendered a deeply troubling report. That report at first carried on for pages, making it sound like the news on the accessibility front was very positive. Yet after a good number of such pages, the troubling truth was revealed. It stated, referring to an independent survey that Ipsos Reid conducted for Elections Ontario, among other things:

“However, there are still challenges: 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 percent of voters with special needs said they experienced problems at their voting locations, and 15 percent said they had problems casting their ballots, a stark contrast to eight percent and one percent respectively for electors in general.

According to the survey, the main areas of concern are physical accessibility in the voting location, signage outside the place identifying the location, the process of voting including the assistance received from poll workers, privacy, and the ability to communicate with staff. For students with disabilities, there is a lack of information about available services, voting processes and how, when, and where to vote.”

Voters without disabilities would not accept such frequent difficulties in exercising their right to vote. This full report is available at: http://www.elections.on.ca/NR/rdonlyres/B0EA045E-FDFA-41EE-A526-D799F90B7786/0/AccessibiltyReportEng.pdf

Here’s the latest installment in this saga. We learned that in June 2008, the Ontario Legislature appointed a Select Committee on Elections, to recommend ways to modernize Ontario’s elections legislation. We asked to appear before that Select Committee. We were invited to do so on April 28, 2009. You can read our presentation that day to the Select Committee, including a lively exchange of questions and answers, at:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/04282009.asp
You can read our brief to the Select Committee on elections at:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/04272009.asp

In June, 2009, the Select Committee issued its report. It recommended wide-ranging changes to Ontario elections laws. Among its discussion and recommendations were some of the issues we had raised. You can read what the Report said about the disability issues we raised at:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/062009.asp

The full Select Committee report can be seen at:
http://74.125.47.132/custom?q=cache:7UmPqnwQ3MwJ:https://ozone.scholarsportal.info/bitstream/1873/14158/1/290679.pdf+modernizing+ontario%27s+electoral+legislation&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&client=google-coop-np

If you want to see examples of efforts over the past decade to raise this issue, visit:

http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10042007.asp
http://www.odacommittee.net/news137.html
http://www.odacommittee.net/news129.html
http://www.odacommittee.net/news83.html
http://www.odacommittee.net/news83.html#letter2
http://www.odacommittee.net/news83.html#letter#4
http://www.odacommittee.net/press31.html
http://www.odacommittee.net/press24.html

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