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Elections Ontario Writes AODA Alliance to Say What It Is Doing to Remove Voting Barriers that Impede Voters with Disabilities – And Other Ontario 2014 Election News on the Accessibility Front

May 22, 2014

SUMMARY

Here is a blast of punchy new accessibility news:

* Elections Ontario wrote us on May 9 and 21, 2014 to list the voting options available for voters with disabilities. We set out those letters below.

Elections Ontario was answering our May 8, 2014 letter, in which we asked for specifics on this. Elections Ontario says it will write again to answer those of our questions that it has not yet answered.

Most telling, Elections Ontario has not said what new accessible voting options, if any, it has investigated since June 2013. In June 2013, Elections Ontario regrettably and unjustifiably ruled out for the immediate future, telephone and internet voting, as a way to help voters with disabilities overcome recurring voting barriers. It is thus incumbent on Elections Ontario to either withdraw its unwarranted opposition to telephone and internet voting, or come up with another solution. We are eager to learn what it has done about this, knowing an election could have been called at any time.

To read our May 8, 2014 letter to Elections Ontario, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05082014.asp

* Today, May 22, 2014, is the last day for you to send feedback to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council on its proposed revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. We encourage you to email the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council to support our April 4, 2014 brief on the proposed revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. Send an email of support. It can simply be one sentence if you wish, just saying that you support the AODA Alliance’s April 4, 2014 brief. Email CSStandardFeedback@ontario.ca

To read our April 4, 2014 brief to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council on its proposed revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/04082014.asp

* Dean Mayo Moran has extended to June 30, 2014 the deadline for sending her your written submissions to her Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We appreciate her giving everyone an extra month to send in their submissions. We are still working on ours! This deadline extension will let you know who will form the next Ontario Government after the June 12, 2014 Ontario election, before you finalize your feedback to the Mayo Moran Independent Review.

* Our May 16, 2014 Virtual News Conference on the Ontario election’s disability accessibility, available on YouTube, has captioning available. We are very much indebted to Inclusive Media for generously providing this captioning. Please spread the word.

You can check out our May 26, 2014 Ontario election virtual news conference by visiting http://youtu.be/05AoTreGF7A

* Please do what you can to circulate our non-partisan Ontario Election Disability Accessibility Action Kit. It gives you great easy-to-use tips on how to raise disability accessibility issues in the Ontario election.

You can find our 2014 Ontario Election Action Kit by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05202014.asp

* We recommend that you seriously consider voting at an advance poll. If you do so, and encounter any voting barriers, you can always return at another advance poll day. If you wait until June 12, 2014 to vote, and face an insurmountable barrier to voting, you won’t be able to come back another day to vote.

If you encounter any voting barriers, please alert Elections Ontario. Their contact information is set out below. Also please let us know. Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

* We have tweeted all candidates in the Ontario election who are on Twitter. Among other things, we asked them to pledge that they won’t attend an All Candidates’ Debate unless it is in an accessible location.

If you get word of an upcoming All Candidates Debate or other campaign event that lacks full accessibility, let us and your local media know. Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

* Here’s a Catch-22 if we’ve ever faced one! On May 2, 2014, just before Ontario was plunged into this election, we wrote Economic Development, Trade and Employment Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins, to ask a series of important questions about the Government’s activities to implement the AODA. We need this information to enable us to prepare our submissions to the Mayo Moran Independent Review of the AODA. With the subsequent call of this election, we also need that information to help us raise accessibility issues in this election.

You can read our May 2, 2014 letter to Dr. Eric Hoskins by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05022014.asp

Dr. Hoskins has not answered this letter. On May 8, 2014, Dr. Hoskins or his campaign sent us a tweet on Twitter. It said: “Team Hoskins: @DavidLepofsky Hi David because the writ has dropped correspondence can’t be sent in Ministerial capacity. Ministry to handle until election”

This left it for us to get an answer from the Ministry. We have now received a letter from the Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, Ms. Wendy Tilford. We set out her May 15, 2014 letter below. In it, she says in effect that we won’t get our questions answered during the election campaign.

Catch-22!

* Despite the election, the clock keeps counting down to 2025, when Ontario must become fully accessible to people with disabilities. A troubling 185 days have now passed since we revealed that the Ontario Government was not enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and that there have been rampant AODA violations in the private sector. The Government still has not made public its promised plan for the AODA’s effective enforcement. Ninety-one days have passed since the Toronto Star reported that the Government would be publicly posting that new enforcement plan “in short order.”

To read our November 18, 2013 revelation that the Government was failing to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act despite knowing of rampant private sector violations, and funds on hand for enforcement, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11182013.asp

To read the Government’s February 20, 2014 pledge to publish in “short order” its plan for enforcing the Disabilities Act, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/02202014.asp

An equally troubling 486 days have passed since the Ontario Government reaffirmed that it will make new accessibility standards under the AODA. We are still waiting for a clear decision on which ones it will next make. Add to that the fact that 267 days have passed since the Government unveiled its plans for the legacy of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. Yet it has still not released details and specifics of a comprehensive disability accessibility legacy for the Games.

Send your feedback to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.com

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Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org

More Details

Text of the May 9, 2014 Email From Greg Essensa, Chief Electoral Officer, to the AODA Alliance

Mr. David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont.
Chair, AODA Alliance
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

Thank you for your letter from yesterday.

I appreciate your offer to share information with voters as to how Elections Ontario will be accommodating persons with disabilities in the voting process for the June 12, 2014 General Election.

Please find attached a Word document which sets out the range of accommodations that we provide along with a PDF copy of this letter.

I will make sure we reply to your other inquiries shortly; I wanted to be sure to get this to you right away.

Yours truly,

Greg Essensa
Chief Electoral Officer

Attachment

cc: Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Premier kwynne.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment ehoskins.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Wendy Tilford, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment wendy.tilford@ontario.ca Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate ann.hoy@ontario.ca
Tim Hudak, Leader, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario tim.hudak.co@pc.ola.org Andrea Horwath, Leader, New Democratic Party of Ontario ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca

Text of the Enclosure with Greg Essensa’s May 9, 2014 Email to the AODA Alliance on Accessible Voting Options in Ontario Election

Elections Ontario’s Information on Accessible Voting Options For Voters with Disabilities

Voting at the 2014 Ontario General Election.

You have more options than ever before to vote in the way that suits you best.

If you are 18 years of age or older, a Canadian citizen, and a resident of Ontario, you can vote in the Provincial General Election.

Voting In Person on Election Day

Election day is Thursday, June 12, 2014. Our trained officials make voting easy and accessible for everyone.

Polls are open for 12 hours on election day, beginning at 9 a.m. in most of Ontario (in the eastern time zone) or at 8 a.m. in some parts of northwestern Ontario (in the central time zone).

We offer a variety of assistive devices for voters such as ballot templates with Braille numbering and cut-outs, magnifiers, and easy-grip pencils.

If you require personal assistance, you can have a friend or support person with you at every step of the voting process.

In addition, your service animal can remain with you at all times.

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may arrange with the Canadian Hearing Society for a Sign Language interpreter to accompany you when you go to vote. You may make these arrangements through the Canadian Hearing Society’s Ontario Interpreting Services and Elections Ontario will cover the cost of the service when used at a returning office, satellite office or at a voting location.

If an alternative voting location in your electoral district is more convenient for you because of a disability, we can arrange for you to vote at your preferred location.

We are here to offer assistance at every step.

Bring one piece of identification that includes your name and your residential address to your voting location. For a full list of acceptable forms of ID or to find the address of your local returning office, please visit our website (wemakevotingeasy.ca). We have also included a list of acceptable forms of ID at the end of this document.

When you arrive at the poll, an election official will ask for your Notice of Registration Card and identification.

An election official will use your Notice of Registration Card to find your information on the Voters List.

You can still vote if you do not have this card. Showing proof of name and residential address and completing a simple form will add you to the list and allow you to vote.

The election official will hand you a folded and initialed ballot and direct you to the voting screen.

Use the pencil supplied to mark an “X” in one of the circular spaces on the ballot.

Refold the ballot and hand it to the election official who will check the initials and hand it back to you.

Once you’ve placed your ballot in the ballot box, you’ve finished the voting process.

Voting In Person at Advance Polls

Advance polls in your area will take place over a period of seven days, starting on May 31, 2014. The process is the same as for voting in person on election day.

Bring one piece of identification that includes your name and your residential address to the advance poll. For a full list of acceptable forms of ID or to find the address of your local returning office, please visit our website (wemakevotingeasy.ca). We have also included a list of acceptable forms of ID at the end of this document.

Voting In Person at Your Returning Office

You can vote in person at your returning office on any day before election day using a special ballot.

Bring one piece of identification that includes your name and your residential address to your local returning office. For a full list of acceptable forms of ID or to find the address of your local returning office, please visit our website (wemakevotingeasy.ca). We have also attached a list of acceptable forms of ID at the end of this document.

Assistive Voting Technology at the returning office may help you to vote privately and independently.

Voting In Person Assistive Voting Technology At Your Returning Office

Elections Ontario offers assistive voting technology to ensure that every eligible Ontarian has an equal opportunity to vote privately and independently. Assistive voting technology (AVT) allows the voter to be certain that the ballot was marked and cast as intended.

Assistive voting technology is available at your local returning office or satellite office from June 1 to June 11, 2014.

An election official will greet you and ask for your Notice of Registration Card and identification.

The election official will issue your ballot and ask you to proceed to the Assistive Voting Technology in order that you may vote.

Before you use the Assistive Voting Technology, an election official will explain the voting options available and will ask you which assistive device you would prefer to use.

You have several options.

The audio tactile interface uses Braille and colour-coded buttons in contrasting shapes to assist you in creating and marking a ballot.

You may use colour-coded paddles, also in contrasting shapes. With this device, you can navigate your ballot by pressing Left or Right.

Finally, a sip and puff interface allows you to control all movement by inhaling or exhaling through a tube.

Once you have chosen the assistive device you wish to use, the election official will insert your ballot into the printer.

You will be guided through the voting process by a series of audio instructions. Once you have indicated your candidate of choice, your ballot will be printed and inserted into a secrecy folder. After the ballot is printed, you may choose to review your ballot through an audio verification of your choice of candidate.

The election official will feed your ballot into the tabulator. Once the tabulator has accepted your ballot, the voting process is complete.

Voting in Person Using Special Ballot

Bring one piece of identification that includes your name and your residential address to your local returning office. For a full list of acceptable forms of ID or to find the address of your local returning office, please visit our website (wemakevotingeasy.ca). We have also included a list of acceptable forms of ID at the end of this document.

As with other in-person voting options, many accessibility provisions are available for you if you vote by special ballot at the returning office. This includes use of personal assistance, service animals, and Elections Ontarios payment of a sign language interpreter if you have made those arrangements.

A Special Ballot Officer will give you a Special Ballot Application.

Complete your application form and return it to the Special Ballot Officer.

Show the Special Ballot Officer your ID.

If the Special Ballot Officer approves your completed application form and your ID, he or she will give you a special ballot.

Complete your ballot and return it to the Special Ballot Officer.

You can vote in person by special ballot until June 11, 2014. On June 11, you must vote by 6:00 PM ET or 5:00 PM CT.

Voting By Mail Using Special Ballot

Voters can apply in advance for a mail-in ballot and vote anytime over the election period.

Step 1: Fill out a Special Ballot Application: There are three ways you can get an application form. Pick up an application form from your local returning office, download an application form from the Elections Ontario website (wemakevotingeasy.ca), or contact your local returning office or Elections Ontario, Special Ballots, and we will email, mail or fax you an application form.

Step 2: Photocopy one piece of identification that includes your name and your residential address. For a full list of acceptable forms of ID, please visit our website at elections.on.ca or see the list at the end of this document.

Step 3. Send your completed Special Ballot Application and a copy of your ID to Elections Ontario by one of the following three methods:

By email: Please scan your completed application form and your ID. Email both files to sb@elections.on.ca. Please type Special Ballots – Application” in the subject line.
By mail or courier: Please send your completed application form and a photocopy of your ID to your local returning office or to:

Elections Ontario
Attention: Special Ballots
51 Rolark Drive
Toronto ON MIR 3B1
Canada

By fax: Please fax your completed application form and a photocopy of your ID to 416.212.8723. Our toll-free fax number in Canada and the United States is 1.888.483.4448. Please type Elections Ontario – Attention: Special Ballots” on your cover sheet.

If you have any questions about special ballots, you may telephone us toll-free in Canada and the United States at 1.855.523.5932. We accept collect calls from anywhere in the world at 416.649.1046. Our toll-free TTY number, from anywhere in Canada or the United States, is 1.888.292.2312.

Question: What happens once Elections Ontario receives my Special Ballot Application and ID?

1. A Special Ballot Officer will review your application form and the copy of your ID.

2. If he or she approves them, your name will be struck off the Voters List, which means that you will be voting by special ballot. You will not be able to vote in person at an advance poll or on June 12, 2014.

3. We will send you a Special Ballot Kit. The kit includes a special ballot, a Secrecy Envelope, an Elector Confirmation envelope, a pre-addressed Return Envelope and detailed voting instructions.

Question: Is there a deadline for applying to vote by mail by special ballot?

Elections Ontario or your local returning office must receive your completed application form and a copy of your ID no later than 6:00 PM ET or 5:00 PM CT on June 6, 2014.

IMPORTANT!

Elections Ontario or your local returning office must receive your special ballot by 6:00 PM ET or 5:00 PM CT on June 12, 2014.

Special Ballot Home Visits

We will also assist you with voting at home by special ballot if the following three conditions apply to you: it is impossible or unreasonably difficult for you to visit your returning office, you need assistance filling out your Special Ballot Application because of a disability or inability to read or write, and you live in the electoral district.

Telephone your local returning office to inquire about home visits.

You will be asked to confirm that those three conditions apply to you.

You will be asked if there are any specific accommodations that need to be known in order to accommodate your needs. You will also be asked if there are any building conditions or in-home conditions that the Special Ballot Officers should know about.

If you are eligible, a Special Ballot Officer will schedule a home visit for you.

At the agreed upon date and time, two Special Ballot Officers, a male and a female, will arrive for the scheduled visit. They will introduce themselves and be wearing badges that identify them as being Elections Ontario Special Ballot Officers.

You will need to have one piece of identification that includes your name and your residential address to your local returning office. For a full list of acceptable forms of ID or to find the address of your local returning office, please visit our website (wemakevotingeasy.ca). We have also included a list of acceptable forms of ID at the end of this document.

You can fill out the application yourself, have a friend or support person do that on your behalf, or have the Special Ballot Officer fill it out for you. If you need assistance marking the ballot, you may receive that also.

The special ballot voting process should take, on average, about 30 minutes to complete.

Accessible Formats and Communication Supports

An individual with a disability may request accessible formats or communication supports from Elections Ontario. The toll-free number is 1.888.668.8683. The TTY/ATS number is 1.855.751.8530. We can also be reached by email at info@elections.on.ca.

Contact Elections Ontario with Accessibility Issues

If an individual has an accessibility problem they should contact their local Returning Officer, in the first instance, in order to resolve their concern at the electoral district level. Elections Ontario also has a Public Call Centre for general inquiries. The toll free number for the Public Call Centre is 1.888.668.8683. The TTY/ATS number is 1.855.751.8530. These numbers will remain operational until June 12, 2014.

After Voting

At the end of your voting experience, whether it was at a voting location, by mail, or in your home, we invite you to tell us how we did. Your feedback will help us to make voting even easier for all Ontarians.

Visit http://www.wemakevotingeasy.ca/ to get more information on these and other options for voting in the Provincial General Election.

Identification Requirements for Voting in Ontario Provincial Elections

If your name is on the list or you have a Certificate to Vote you must provide the following identification to receive a ballot:

Show one piece of identification with name (name must match a name on the list).

Any of the following (or any document in the list that appears later for voters whose name is not on the list):

Birth Certificate.
Canadian Forces Identification Card.
Canadian Passport.
Certificate of Canadian Citizenship (Citizenship Card).
Certificate of Indian Status (Status Card).
Old Age Security Card.
Ontario Health Card (with or without address).
Social Insurance Number Card.
Veterans Affairs Canada Health Card.

Or any document:

Issued by the Government of Canada, Ontario or a municipality in Ontario or from an agency of such a government. Issued by a Band Council in Ontario (established under the Indian Act) Credit/Debit Card.
Employee Card.
Hospital Card or Bracelet.
Student Card.
Union Card or Professional Licence.

If your name is not on the list:

You need to obtain a Certificate to Vote; or you need to modify your personal information. You must provide the following identification to receive a ballot. Show one piece of identification that includes both name and residential address.

Any of the following

Ontario Driver’s Licence.
Ontario Photo-Card.
Ontario Motor Vehicle Permit.
Statement of Government Benefits (child tax benefit, old age security, etc.).

Or any document:

Issued by the Government of Canada, Ontario or a municipality in Ontario or from an agency of such a government. Issued by a Band Council in Ontario (established under the Indian Act). Bank/Credit Card Statement.
Cancelled Personalized Cheque.
“Certification of Identity and Residence” form signed by authorized administrator. Cheque stub, T4 tax slip or pay receipt issued by an employer. CNIB Identity Card.
Document issued by a post-secondary school Campus Residence Official. Hospital Record/Document.
Insurance Policy/Statement.
Loan/Agreement with a Financial Institution.
Post-secondary school Admissions Letter.
Post-secondary school Transcript/Report Card.
Post-secondary school Tuition/Fees Statement.
Residential Lease, Rental or Mortgage Agreement/Statement.

Please note: The Notice of Registration card (NRC) may NOT be used as proof of name; the NRC may be used as proof of residence ONLY. An elector must show a second piece of identification to prove name.

Text of the May 21, 2014 Letter to the AODA Alliance from Elections Ontario

Susan McMurray
Manager, Research, Policy and Accessibility
Elections Ontario
51 Rolark Drive
Toronto, Ontario
M1R 3B1
416-326-6300

May 21, 2014

Mr. David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont.
Chair, AODA Alliance
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

The Chief Electoral Officer, who wrote to you on May 9, 2014 with information that you could distribute about the accommodations we offer, has asked me to answer several of the questions asked in your letter of May 8, 2014.

You have asked about the steps Elections Ontario has taken since October 2011 to ensure that elections are accessible. You have also asked specific questions regarding employment of persons with disabilities, Assistive Voting Technology, and accessible voting locations.
For the October 2011 General Election, Elections Ontario implemented fundamentally new voting channels. For the first time, Ontario voters could cast a ballot over a 29 day period using a variety of options. These options included voting by Special ballot either in person at the local returning office or by mail, flexible advance voting, voting from home or from a hospital bed, or voting with assistive voting technology at returning offices and satellite offices. All voting locations were required to be accessible to electors with disabilities. These changes were made possible through amendments to the Election Act in 2010, a number of which were based on recommendations made by Elections Ontario. Since 2010, the statute has not been amended.
During and after the October 2011 General Election, we received feedback from more than 20,000 electors. Of these, approximately 700 electors provided feedback specific to accessibility issues. We used this feedback, along with the experience of Returning Officers and other election officials, and our own analysis, to identify areas for improvement and action.

With a minority government, we have had to maintain a state of constant readiness to deliver a general election since 2011. Due to these circumstances, and the fact that the Election Act has not been amended, we have fine-tuned our initiatives and procedures, learning from the experience of voters in 2011. Below, I provide examples of action we have taken since 2011.

Training

Elections Ontario is committed to delivering elections that are transparent, fairly administered, efficient and accessible. In doing so, election officials are the key point of contact with electors. It is important that they provide excellent accessible customer service. We continue to train all of our more than 70,000 staff, the vast majority of whom work for one day only, on election day, to deliver such service using audio and video training tailored to Ontario provincial elections.
In a new initiative since 2011, we now also train election officials about the integrated accessibility standards. The focus is on information and communications, employment and our policies and plans, and includes information about the Ontario Human Rights Code. We provide different types of training for those who work during the election and more intensive training for those who are part of our permanent or contract staff at headquarters.

Employment

Elections Ontario welcomes applications from persons with disabilities. Our policy is to accommodate applicants and employees with disabilities who need workplace accommodations. Newly introduced since 2011, explicit accessible employment procedures now form part of our election delivery activities. During recruitment and training, we advise applicants and employees that employment-related accommodations are available on request. The process for submitting, processing and communicating the outcome is documented so that the entire process is transparent. Assignment of election officials to specific jobs and locations is done by each of the 107 Returning Officers.

Elections Ontario seeks to ensure the safety of all election workers. We communicate during training that information and accommodation will be provided for staff with disabilities who require a workplace emergency response plan.

Special Ballots

Our Special ballot program provides home and hospital visits for qualified voters. We have modified our Special ballot home and hospital visit training, intake procedures and delivery to enhance access and reach more qualified electors.

Our updated training program combines in-person and interactive online video training. The newly-produced online training and existing training manual offer scenarios so Special Ballot Officers can better understand the circumstances in which they may provide service for home or hospital visits.

Special ballot staff work with hospitals to determine the best approach in each facility. This can mean bed-to-bed service or Special ballot set-up in a specific room to allow electors to vote at a time of their choosing. In facilities that serve persons with mental health issues, including those with locked areas, we provide service in collaboration with staff at each location.

We have also fine-tuned our Special ballot intake procedures to facilitate uptake of home visits by qualified electors. We reinforce the message that there are set criteria which determine qualification for a home visit so that Special Ballot Officers do not apply any other criteria.

Assistive Voting Technology

Assistive Voting Technology (AVT) is available in returning offices and satellite offices during advance voting and until the day before voting day. As the Chief Electoral Officer noted in his letter to you on December 2, 2010, the Election Act only allows for alternative voting equipment to be stationed in returning offices. Because of the geographic size of some electoral districts, many Returning Officers, under the direction of the Chief Electoral Officer, set up satellite returning offices to ensure all electors in an electoral district can more conveniently access returning office services throughout the writ period. For the 2014 General Election, this means that AVT will be available in 144 offices located across the province, as permitted by the Election Act.

AVT allows electors to direct the marking of their ballot using audio interface and assistive devices. It was implemented in 2011 following legislative change in 2010 permitting us to do so.
To address feedback concerning AVT we received during and after the 2011 General Election, including your feedback, we have taken steps to refine the ability of staff to support this process. We now supplement in-person training with online training, and provide a script for the poll officials to utilize when AVT voting is in process. The online training provides step-by-step instructions regarding AVT usage. Among other information, the script for poll officials includes instructions that voters using AVT ballot marking devices should be offered a second chance to verify their vote, after their ballot is printed but before it is accepted by the Vote Tabulator. Voters should also be told which buttons to press to execute the process.

Voting Locations

You noted that, for the 2011 General Election, we were required to post proposed voting locations several months in advance, so that persons with disabilities could give input on whether these locations were accessible. This provision only applies to scheduled general elections. As the committee that reviewed the legislative amendments to the Election Act recognized, this posting process is not practicable for unscheduled elections.

Between elections, especially in a minority government period as we have just experienced, Returning Officers continue to identify and review voting locations that are accessible to persons with disabilities according to our Site Accessibility Standards. We learned from the 2011 General Election, including from customer service feedback, about challenges related to specific sites. Of the approximately 8,000 voting locations that we used, we removed some from our voting location inventory as a result.

For the remaining sites, Returning Officers communicated regularly with landlords to verify availability and to inquire if there were modifications to the sites. Many landlords make improvements to their buildings, including upgrades for accessibility purposes. If that is the case, the Returning Officer re-inspects the location to determine whether it meets our standards or requires remediation to do so. In addition, they also identify new locations. Any potential new location is inspected and evaluated prior to being added to our inventory.

The Future

In Elections Ontarios Strategic Plan 2013 to 2017, the Chief Electoral Officer indicates that we want to transform how elections are conducted in Ontario. The strategic plan provides the foundation for all of our activities, including implementing our multi-year accessibility plan and engaging in the process of identifying, preventing and removing barriers where we find them.

As the strategic plan notes, we are adapting and improving because what has previously served us well is no longer sustainable. Our society has been transformed by rapid changes in technology and the introduction of electronic service channels. There is a growing expectation that electoral agencies will be employing some of these solutions to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and increase the integrity, accessibility and participation in the electoral process.

We need to respond to the changing needs of our stakeholders and to the opportunities afforded by advances in technology. As our population ages, mobility and accessibility challenges grow significantly. We need to ensure that our processes foster inclusiveness and that barriers are removed.

Accessibility Advisory Committee

You asked whether the Accessibility Advisory Committee has been re-established and, if not, why not. Our former Accessibility Advisory Committee provided valuable advice on initiatives introduced by Bill 231 and through standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We have no specific plan at this time to re-establish the Advisory Committee. As we explore new initiatives, we can consult on providing services to persons with disabilities through a variety of means without having always to do so through a committee.

All of our stakeholders will have a role as we build a modern, accessible, integrated, safe and secure electoral process.

Communication

As part of your request for information about accessible voting channels, you encouraged us to widely publicize accessible voting options for voters with disabilities. We share your desire to communicate information about accessible voting options to electors. The following describes a number of communication channels we use on a regular basis.

First, our Outreach Program is designed to raise election awareness, enhance communication with stakeholder groups and reach out to voters with information to remove any barriers to participation in the electoral process. Between and during elections, program staff attend accessibility events, send email blasts, mail information packages, and communicate with a variety of agencies to ensure their clients are aware of our voting processes and options. Among others, we communicate with organizations such as the CNIB and Canadian Hearing Society and citizen-based groups such as the National Educational Association of Disabled Students.
Second, we distribute to every household in Ontario a householder brochure containing dates and information for election day, advance polls, Special ballots, assistive voting technology, and assistive devices that will be available at each voting location. Voters can ask for a braille copy of the householder through our head office or at returning offices. The householder can also be accessed as an audio recording through Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) via cable, satellite or the internet.

Third, we send a Notice of Registration Card (NRC) to more than nine million registered electors. The NRC includes tailored information for each elector about their voting location, advance voting locations, and returning office. The NRC also provides contact information should an individual wish to obtain the NRC in an alternative format, such as large font, audio, braille or electronic format.

Finally, our W3C-compliant website www.wemakevotingeasy.ca answers questions about who, when, where and how to vote. The answers explain the available accessible voting options, including links to documents or relevant contact information. The website also contains applications that voters can use to find out whether they are on the voters list, where they vote, where their returning office is located and who are their candidates.

Contacting Elections Ontario

You also asked us to provide a dedicated phone number to call if a voter faces disability voting barriers. We provide integrated services that permit any person who has issues or questions to use the same service channels. If an individual has an accessibility question they should contact their local Returning Officer first, in order to resolve their concern at the electoral district level. Elections Ontario also has a Public Call Centre for general inquiries. The toll free number for the Public Call Centre is 1.888.668.8683. The TTY/ATS number is 1.855.751.8530. These numbers will remain operational until June 12, 2014.

I hope this information is of assistance. I will reply to your remaining questions about future directions shortly but wanted to be sure we sent information to you about how our services have changed since 2011 while preparing for an unscheduled general election, as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,
Signed by
Susan McMurray
Manager, Research, Policy and Accessibility

cc: Greg Essensa, Chief Electoral Officer
greg.essensa@elections.on.ca
Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Premier
kwynne.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment ehoskins.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Wendy Tilford, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment wendy.tilford@ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate ann.hoy@ontario.ca
Tim Hudak, Leader, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario tim.hudak.co@pc.ola.org
Andrea Horwath, Leader, New Democratic Party of Ontario
ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca

Text of the May 15, 2014 Letter to the AODA Alliance from Wendy Tilford, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment

Ministry of Economic Development, Trade
and Employment
Ministry of Research and Innovation

Office of the Deputy Minister
Hearst Block, 8th Floor
900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2E1
Telephone: 416-325-6927
Fax : 416-325-6999
Email : wendy.tilford@ontario.ca

May 15, 2014

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

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

Thank you for your email on May 2, addressed to Minister Hoskins.

Due to the recent dissolution of the 40th provincial parliament, a response from the minister is not possible at this time. Your letter will be forwarded to the minister for review after the election.

Your email refers to the Moran review submission date of June 1, 2014. Please note that Dean Moran has extended the date to June 30, 2014.

Regards,

Original Signed By

Wendy Tilford
Deputy Minister
Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment
& Ministry of Research & Innovation