Elections Canada works with a number of external organizations and people with disabilities to inform its programs and services.
In February 2014, Elections Canada launched an Advisory Group for Disability Issues to provide subject matter expertise and advice on accessibility initiatives for the 2015 federal election. The group also helped to identify the best ways to inform people with disabilities of when, where and the ways to register and vote.
Members of the Advisory Group for Disability Issues talk about the accessibility of electoral activities.
The Advisory Group for Disability Issues is mandated to:
The advisory group has eight members, invited as experts and selected based on their familiarity with various disability and accessibility issues.
Over the first three years of our collaboration, the advisory group has been able to give Elections Canada valuable advice and feedback on training programs, election workers, communication products, voting tools and services, and so on.
Advisory group members shared their points of view with Elections Canada on barriers to voting and how to improve accessibility of the vote. The reality is that exercising the right to vote continues to be a real obstacle course for many citizens.
My colleagues and I have all asked ourselves these questions:
We recommend that the modified election law include new accessibility requirements. In order to make voting more accessible, we need to expand the accessibility requirements.
Hello, my name is Frank Folino, President of the Association of the Deaf, l'Association des sourds du Canada. I would like to share with you the importance of providing sign language at polling stations in Canada.
For deaf electors, providing video interpreting services would be essential to providing an accessible voting station and a barrier-free communication environment for them. Sign language has been recognized by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in seven of their articles, and in Canada there are two sign languages: American Sign Language and La langue des signes Québécois.
Providing those two languages is a prerequisite for providing linguistic and cultural participation to deaf people in society on par with other Canadians who use spoken languages. Providing in-person sign language interpreters at the polling station has proven to be problematic thus far, but we have a solution: video interpreting services.
When the deaf person presents themselves at the polling station spontaneously, the technology can be there at the ready. They would be able to call a sign language interpreter at a video interpreting call centre in the National Capital Region.
The interpreter will be able to facilitate the communication between the deaf elector and the polling centre staff. Their experience at the polling station will be one of independence and of clear communication. The deaf elector will leave feeling proud that they have had clear communication, that they have voted and have participated independently in the democratic voting process in Canada. Thank you.
I'm 51 years old and totally blind, and because of the way that the legislation for elections currently sits, there is no way for me to be able to vote independently and in secret. This is something that has never happened to me in my entire life. For 51 years as a Canadian, with the same rights and freedoms as everybody else, I still don't have the ability to vote by myself and in secret because the adaptive equipment that I need is not possible to be used due to current legislation.
If the legislation was to allow for people to be able to test equipment, and use the adaptive equipment that we have in place, and be able to vote independently online, check our vote, and do it in secret, it would make me feel like I was equal within our society.
Hi, I'm Donna Jodhan and my hope for future elections is that blind persons, partially-sighted persons and those who are deaf-blind will have the opportunity to vote independently and in privacy when they enter the booth at election time; that they will have the opportunity to be able to check their ballots after they have completed them; and that they would be able to ensure that the candidate's name that they have entered is the one that they have really wanted to enter.
This is my hope for future elections, and I hope that the Canadian Parliament will have the opportunity to make this a reality. Thank you.
In November 2015, when I went to vote, I took my assistant with me and they allowed my assistant to come in and mark the ballot for me, and then cast the ballot. Ideally, if I could do that independently and have some privacy, that would be the optimal solution.
I would like to be able to use my assistive technology to access a secure, local, wireless link at the voting station to cast my ballot.
The community needs to be educated on the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities.
We need to educate elections staff on how to help people with intellectual disabilities to vote.
There needs to be more plain-language information about the elections.
It's easier for me to vote now that I can see the candidates' photos.
The Liberal government campaigned on electoral reform, promising that they will make every vote count. Elections Canada has made incredible progress in making this statement true for Canadians with disabilities. However, there is still a long way to go.
Many Canadians remain unable to independently complete the voting process. Some are unable to verify how they have marked their ballots. Others cannot physically mark their ballot. Introducing a broad range of mechanisms for voting, such as electronic machines, telephone or online ways to cast votes, would be a good start to making voting accessible to all Canadians. But voting is not the only issue.
The Elections Act needs to ensure physically accessible campaign offices, fully accessible candidates' meetings held at accessible premises with ASL and LSQ interpreters, campaign materials available in multiple formats—large print, Braille, electronic text and in plain language—and disability-related costs for the candidates, exempt from campaign finance limits.
Casting one's vote in an election has been described as the most important act any citizen performs in a democracy, so let's ensure that electoral review looks at accessibility to all parts of the election process. Only then will all Canadians feel comfortable and interested in casting their ballot every time an election is called.
What's important for us, ultimately, is to have an electoral process that's accessible to everyone. It's all well and good to be able to vote, but you still need to know who to vote for. For example, for someone with impaired mobility, it's very important that they are able to get to and enter the premises where discussions, debates or speeches are happening.
Someone with a hearing impairment needs to be able to follow—through accessible media—debates and exchanges between candidates, whether televised or not.
Someone with a visual impairment needs access to information, whether it's on a website, in a brochure or, often, visual messages on TV, for example.
And there are people who have trouble with comprehension, an intellectual disability or other cognitive difficulties, and the message needs to be understandable. At the same time, if the message can be understood by people with intellectual difficulties, for example, then we can be sure the rest of the population will understand it. We call this universal design.
Inclusive participation in political life involves voting and the process around voting, of course, but it also needs to include the importance for people with disabilities to be able to run as candidates themselves.
If we want to encourage more people with disabilities to run as candidates for our institutions, it's very important that we find a way to prevent the expenses related to a candidate's disability from blocking their participation in political life.
As a society, we often ask ourselves if our institutions reflect the entire population. Well, the entire population includes people with disabilities.