ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO

WILL ONTARIO'S TWO SEPTEMBER 6 2012 BY-ELECTIONS BE FULLY ACCESSIBLE TO ALL VOTERS WITH DISABILITIES?

August 27, 2012

SUMMARY

Our non-partisan disability coalition continues to spearhead a campaign to make elections in Ontario fully accessible to voters with disabilities. Ontario's two upcoming by-elections provide another chance to try to make progress on this effort. The grassroots campaign for fully accessible elections in Ontario was first launched over 13 years ago by our predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.

In our latest effort, the AODA Alliance has again written to Elections Ontario on August 24, 2012, to ask Elections Ontario to ensure that in the upcoming September 6, 2012, by-elections in two Ontario ridings, all voters with disabilities  will be able to vote independently and in private. Elections Ontario is the Ontario public agency responsible for administering elections in Ontario. This includes responsibility for ensuring that the vote is fully accessible to voters with disabilities.  

Our August 24, 2012, letter to Ontario's Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Greg Essensa, is set out at the end of this Update. In summary, our letter makes these points:

* The AODA Alliance objects to Elections Ontario's flat refusal to deploy the option of telephone and internet voting for voters with disabilities, and for all voters, in these two upcoming by-elections. In 2010, as a result of our advocacy, the Legislature gave Elections Ontario a mandate to test such modern voting options in by-elections starting in 2012. Earlier this year, Elections Ontario categorically refused to test telephone and internet voting technologies in any by-election in 2012. See http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05242012.asp  The AODA Alliance has been in the lead in pressing for telephone and internet voting in Ontario as options for both voters with and without disabilities. 

* The AODA Alliance urges Elections Ontario to deploy in these two by-elections all the 140 accessible voting machines, already purchased by Elections Ontario with taxpayer money for last year's election. These machines are designed to enable voters to mark their own ballots and verify their choices, if they are blind, have low vision, are dyslexic, or cannot use their hands to mark a ballot. Elections Ontario hand-picked these machines after field testing them.

In the 2011 general Ontario election, Elections Ontario deployed only one or two accessible voting machines per riding. Because only two ridings are going to the polls on September 6, 2012, Elections Ontario has available all 140 accessible voting machines to spread around the two ridings where by-elections are being held.

* The AODA Alliance urges Elections Ontario to make accessible voting machines available to voters with disabilities on Election Day itself, September 6, 2012, and not just in advance polls. In the 2011 Ontario general election, Elections Ontario made these accessible voting machines available only at advance polls, but not on Election Day itself, the very day when most voters actually vote. This made no sense to us.

   

Here's why our most recent effort is so important and timely. Ontario has over 1.7 million persons with disabilities. A clear majority of these are of voting age. Public attention is now focused on Ontario's September 6, 2012 by-elections in the Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughn ridings. Media reports suggest that these by-elections may decide whether Ontario's Liberals will secure a majority government, or will have to continue ruling as a minority government.

In these by-elections, every issue, every vote, and every voter counts. To learn about the disability accessibility issues we raise in these two September 6, 2012 Ontario by-elections, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08232012.asp  

On a related note, the AODA Alliance is also urging voters with disabilities to raise disability accessibility issues in these by-election campaigns. As part of this, we urge voters with disabilities, their families, and friends to ask for commitments at all-candidates debates, to ensure that Ontario becomes fully accessible by 2025. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025. It mandates the provincial government to develop, enact, and enforce a series of accessibility standards to achieve this goal.

Below we set out information about an August 28, 2012, all-candidates meeting from 7:30 to 10 a.m. in Vaughn riding, and an August 29, 2012, all-candidates meeting in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding from 7:10 to 9 pm. Questions at the K-W event may have to be submitted on-line in advance. The K-W event will be broadcast live on 570 News Radio. It may be possible to listen live on the internet by visiting that radio station's website.

We encourage one and all to visit the links provided below for these events to learn more about them. Let us know if you hear of any other all-candidates debates or meetings in these ridings during this campaign so we can publicize them to the disability community. We can be contacted at aodafeedback@gmail.com

MORE DETAILS

In May 2010, the Ontario Legislature passed Bill 231, to modernize Ontario elections. It included provisions for which we fought, to remove barriers to accessible voting for voters with disabilities. To learn more about our earlier campaign to win strengthened disability voting accessibility provisions in Bill 231, visit the AODA Alliance Updates from 2009 and 2010 available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/default.asp  

The frustrating saga of our efforts over the past two years to get informative answers from Elections Ontario since the Legislature passed Bill 231 is revealed in a series of letters between Elections Ontario and us from May 3, 2010, to the present. In our letters, we ask a series of clear and appropriate questions. We obviously seek detailed answers from this public agency. We also make very specific and concrete proposals.

In this series of letters, we often receive very general and incomplete responses. Too many of our questions are left unanswered. We have made these letters public on our website. This exchange of letters includes the following:

The AODA Alliance's May 3, 2010 letter to Elections Ontario is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05032010.asp

Elections Ontario's June 25, 2010 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11222010.asp   

The AODA Alliance's November 18, 2010 letter to elections Ontario is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11222010.asp

The December 3, 2010 letter to the AODA Alliance from Elections Ontario is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/04082011.asp

The AODA Alliance's October 28, 2011 letter to Elections Ontario is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10312011.asp

Elections Ontario's November 17, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11252011.asp

The AODA Alliance's  May 14, 2012 letter to Elections Ontario  is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05142012.asp 

Elections Ontario's May 22, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05242012.asp

The AODA Alliance's  May 23, 2012 letter to Elections Ontario is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05242012.asp

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AUGUST 24, 2012 LETTER FROM THE AODA ALLIANCE TO ELECTIONS ONTARIO

 

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

email:  aodafeedback@gmail.com

Visit: www.aodalliance.org

 

August 24, 2012

 

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: Making Ontario Elections Fully Accessible to All Voters with Disabilities

 

We write to reinforce the need for Elections Ontario to ensure that the September 6, 2012 by-elections in the Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughn ridings are fully accessible to voters with disabilities.

1. Telephone and Internet Voting

We regret very much that Elections Ontario unilaterally decided not to deploy telephone and internet voting in these two upcoming by-elections. As you know, almost two and a half years ago, the Ontario Legislature voted to empower Elections Ontario to test telephone and internet voting in by-elections starting in 2012. The Legislature did this to see if these technologies should be deployed across Ontario in future general elections.

These two upcoming by-elections provide a tremendous and timely opportunity to test and showcase these promising modern options for accessible voting in two different parts of the province. By holding two by-elections at the same time, Ontarians could benefit from a larger number of voters having the chance to try out these options.

Telephone and internet voting would be a positive stride forward for many voters with disabilities. That option is far more accessible than marking a paper ballot at a polling station, particularly for voters with little or no vision and for those with dyslexia. Telephone and/or internet voting would also make voting much easier for voters without disabilities. If available, all voters, those with disabilities and those with no disabilities, could choose to vote over the telephone or internet if they wish, rather than trekking to a polling station.

Well over a year and a half ago, on December 3, 2010, Elections Ontario wrote us saying it planned to be prepared to test telephone and internet voting in by-elections by this year. These two by-elections come in the second half of this year. Elections Ontario has had more than enough time to prepare itself.

By-elections do not happen very often. We have no way of knowing how many months will now pass before Elections Ontario will have another chance to try out telephone and internet voting.

We respectfully disagree with your unilateral decision refusing to test telephone and/or internet voting in any by-election at any time this year. Elections Ontario has not given a detailed and convincing explanation why it is not prepared to test it now, especially after it has, on Elections Ontario's own statements to us, been preparing itself for almost two years. Other jurisdictions inside and outside Ontario already have experience deploying these accessible voting technologies.

In our letter to you dated May 23, 2012, we requested a face-to-face meeting with you to discuss this issue. To date, you have not answered that letter or otherwise agreed to meet. We believe that this is not appropriate service for voters with disabilities. Given Elections Ontario's troubled track record with barriers to accessible voting, pointedly exemplified in the stunning instance of a physically inaccessible polling station in the heart of downtown Toronto in the February 10, 2010 Toronto Centre by-election, we believe that Elections Ontario should be more responsive.

We repeat our request to meet with you as soon as possible. We seek, among other things, a detailed explanation of why Elections Ontario has not been ready to test telephone and/or internet voting in these by-elections, and commitments on when Elections Ontario will be ready to deploy these technologies.

Several months ago, Elections Ontario issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a company to assist with deploying these technologies. Elections Ontario met with one such firm almost two years ago. Please let us know the current status of that RFP. What came of that meeting with one vendor in this area from the fall of 2010?

2. Deployment of Accessible Voting Machines on Voting Day in the two September 6, 2012 Ontario By-elections

On the advice of Elections Ontario, last year the Ontario Government purchased some 140 accessible voting machines for deployment in Ontario elections. These machines, which Elections Ontario had field-tested and endorsed, let a voter with motor limitations, vision loss or dyslexia mark their own ballot privately and independently and verify their choice. In contrast to the some 140 voting machines for all of Ontario, the U.S. has some 2,500 accessible voting machines just for the city of Chicago alone. In contrast, the small number of accessible voting machines in Ontario allowed Elections Ontario to deploy only one or two accessible voting machines per electoral riding in a general election.

We would like to know if Elections Ontario will be deploying all of these 140 or so accessible voting machines in the upcoming September 6, 2012 Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughn by-elections. We recommended this in our May 23, 2012 letter to you which you have not answered. If so, where will they be deployed? Since the taxpayer has funded the purchase of these machines, it would make sense to deploy them all, and not merely one or two per riding, in these two by-elections.

Also, we raised with you in our May 23, 2012 letter the need for Elections Ontario to make these accessible voting machines available on voting day itself, September 6, 2012, not only in advance polls. In the 2011 Ontario election, Elections Ontario deployed accessible machines only in advance polls, and not on voting day itself. We have voiced our concern that it seems unfair and wasteful to leave those accessible voting machines in some box, unused, on voting day itself, when most people go to vote. Voters with disabilities, like all other voters, have the right to wait until the final day of the campaign before deciding for whom to vote, while voting independently and in private.   

3. Other Outstanding Questions

To date, Elections Ontario has still not fully answered a number of the important questions we have raised with you in our earlier letters dated October 28, 2011, May 14, 2012, and May 23, 2012. We are eager for Elections Ontario to promptly provide full answers to all our outstanding inquiries.

In addition, we are eager to know the current status of Elections Ontario's disability advisory group. How often has it met since the October 2011 general Ontario election? When will it next be meeting? How often will it be meeting in the next two years? Elections Ontario recruited this advisory committee to provide input on strategies to ensure that elections in Ontario are fully accessible to voters with disabilities.

Finally, we understand that Elections Ontario had intended to produce a report on the accessibility of the 2011 Ontario general election. In our May 23, 2012 letter to you, we asked for a copy of this report, if completed. We have not heard back from you on this request. May we have a copy of that report in MS Word format now, if the report has been prepared? If it has not yet been prepared, when will it be finished?

You have emphasized in the past that full voting accessibility for voters with disabilities is a priority for you and for Elections Ontario. We endorse your earlier commitments that Elections Ontario should be open, transparent, and accountable. You have in the past also expressed a strong desire to work together with our coalition. We regret that Elections Ontario's failure to deploy telephone and/or internet voting in these by-elections, its failure to answer a number of our past inquiries, and not answering our request for a face-to-face meeting in our May 23, 2012 letter to you fall short of those important commitments.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. We would appreciate especially knowing about your plans regarding the accessible voting machines in these by-elections so we can let our supporters know when and where to go to use them.

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

John Milloy, Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-3347, email john.milloy@ontario.ca  

Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-5240, email marg.rappolt@ontario.ca

Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate, fax (416) 325-9620, email Ellen.Waxman@ontario.ca

Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition, fax (416) 325-0491, email tim.hudakco@pc.ola.org

Andrea Horwath, Third Party Leader, fax (416) 325-8222, email ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca

 

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WEB ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE AUGUST 28,2012 ALL CANDIDATES MEETING IN VAUGHN RIDING

 

Posted as of August 25, 2012 at: http://vaughanchamber.ca/   

VAUGHN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

 Events

Vaughan By-election - Meet the Candidates

Date: August 28, 2012

Time: 7:30am - 10:00am

Location: Toscana Banquet and Conference : Toscan

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WEB POSTING ON KITCHENER-WATERLOO AUGUST 29, 2012 ALL CANDIDATES MEETING

Posted as of August 25, 2012 at: http://memberservices.membee.com/onkitcoc/eventstest02.aspx?id=1007&event=Y

Greater KW Chamber of Commerce Presents All Candidates Meeting

Event Details Date:  Wednesday, August 29, 2012  Remind Me

Time:  7:10 PM - 9:00 PM 

Kitchener City Hall - Rotunda

Kitchener, ON

Map

All Candidates Meeting Details

The Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with 570 News, will be hosting a By-election Candidate Meeting in the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo with moderator Glenn Pelletier, Morning News Anchor from 570 News.

This meeting will be broadcasted live on 570 News.

Please forward any potential questions to Ian McLean and Art Sinclair at the Chamber.

Thank you for your support!

Registration is not required, limited seating available and given on a first come first serve basis.