Currently, no AODA standards require provincial or municipal elections in Ontario to be accessible. However, the Third Review of the AODA recommends the creation of standards mandating accessibility in politics and elections. In this article, we will outline the need for accessible voting methods.
Accessible Voting Methods
In Ontario, and across Canada, people have the right to vote by secret ballot. In other words, voting should be confidential for everyone. Therefore, accessible voting methods should be available during every provincial and municipal election in Ontario. For instance, every polling station should offer ballots in accessible formats, such as Braille and large print. Furthermore, anyone who wishes to vote by mail should also be able to request ballots in these formats. In addition, polling stations could provide magnifiers for voters who need them.
Moreover, communication supports should also be available for voters upon request. For instance, voters who use Sign language should be able to arrange interpretation while they vote. Likewise, polling stations could provide communication boards containing words or symbols related to the process of voting. Furthermore, all these supports should also be available to anyone wishing to vote at home.
Voting and Support Persons
Finally, polling stations can accommodate voters by allowing support persons to accompany them into the voting area and assist in casting their vote. This option should be available for anyone who prefers to have their support person when they vote. However, involving another person in the process of voting violates people’s rights to keep personal information confidential. Many people today may not wish any other person to know which candidates they vote for or which party they support. All people should have the right to vote privately. Therefore, voting with the help of a support person should never be someone’s only means of voting.
On the contrary, polling stations should have different types of assistive technology that help people to vote by themselves. For instance, some voters may use a controller with audio and large, tactile buttons. Other voters may use a controller they operate with their feet, hands, or elbows. Still other voters may use sip and puff technology, which they operate by breathing in and out.
All these formats, supports, and technologies should be available in every local polling station. However, election organizers should have plans in place to ensure that all people can vote, even when their local polling station is not accessible. For instance, election officials should allow voters to transfer to a more accessible polling station. In addition, officials should ensure that every returning office is fully accessible for people wishing to vote in advance. Finally, election officials should alert voters in advance that all these options are possible. In this way, voters can choose the methods that will work best for them, and make any needed arrangements before they vote.