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Ontario’s Disabled Fighting to Protect Their Voting Rights

February 6, 2010

Activists for the province’s disabled community are calling for tough legislation to protect their voting rights after Elections Ontario set up a polling
station down a flight of stairs.

Toronto Centre resident John Wood was forced to leave his wheelchair and struggle down six steps with assistance to exercise his right to vote in the byelection on Thursday.

David Lepofsky, chairman of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said his group has been lobbying for a decade for barrier-free
elections, promoting innovative solutions such as telephone voting.

“So what happened (Thursday) is utterly appalling and completely inexcusable,” Lepofsky said. “Voters don’t have the choice of coming back the next day.
Once the election’s over, the damage is irreparable to a voter who lost their right, and the right to vote is a constitutional right.”

In a bulletin to the AODA Alliance on Friday, Lepofsky said he was contacted by Elections Ontario after a story appeared in The Toronto Sun.

A letter from Greg Esssensa of the province’s Chief Election Office, included in the bulletin, describes the situation at the St. Joseph’s College poll
as “unfortunate” and suggests it’s not an isolated incident.

Essensa says Elections Ontario is committed to improving elections in the province to ensure that all voters, including those with special needs, can cast
their ballot.

But Lepofsky wants the Dalton McGuinty government to strengthen a provincial election reform bill that’s before the Ontario Legislature to ensure accessible polling stations are made available to everyone.

The premier promised the disabled community in the 2007 provincial election that he would address this issue, Lepofsky said.

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