August 31, 2010
The AODA Alliance has submitted a brief to Elections Ontario on a proposed accessibility standard for sites for polling stations and returning offices in provincial elections. This brief, set out below, is three pages long. It may be our briefest brief ever!
Earlier this summer, Elections Ontario posted its proposed site accessibility standard on its website for public comment. Please send us an email, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a copy of the draft standard (about 12 pages). It is also available on the Elections Ontario website.
Elections Ontario gave the public until September 1, 2010 to submit comments. Even after that deadline expires, we encourage you to send your own feedback to Elections Ontario. Please tell Elections Ontario if you endorse our brief. You can contact Elections Ontario at:
Mail: Voting Location Comments, Elections Ontario, 51 Rolark Drive,
Toronto, ON, M1R 3B1
Fax: Att: Voting Location Comments, 416-212-3401
Website: http://www.elections.on.ca/en-ca http://www.elections.on.ca/fr-ca
If you require the document in another accessible format, please email email@example.com
Submission to Elections Ontario on the Proposed Site Accessibility Standard Dated JULY 2010
AUGUST 31, 2010
Thank you for giving us an opportunity to comment on Elections Ontario’s Draft Site Accessibility Standard. Our submission is very brief, due to limited time available to us amidst the summer months. We offer the follow recommendations, and would be pleased to review any subsequent drafts of this proposed standard. We do not here address the technical details in the draft standard.
1. Consultation Process Timing
Elections Ontario opted to announce this consultation in mid-July, and to invite public input until the end of August. This is during peak vacation time for many, including many community organizations. To ensure effective input from the disability community, we recommend that Elections Ontario extend this period of input until the end of September 2010, or at the very least, until the middle of September.
2. It is very important for this proposed accessibility standard to be thoroughly reviewed by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, part of the Ministry of Community and Social Services. We wish to know what feedback Elections Ontario obtained from the A.D.O., and whether that feedback is incorporated into this draft, or will be incorporated into the next version of this standard, before it is finalized, and their feedback
We want to ensure that the accessibility standard fully complies, at a minimum, with all requirements in the Ontario Building Code, and in the most recent version of the proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard. The Accessibility Directorate would have the most up-to-date information on what is to be expected in the Built Environment Accessibility Standard. We consider that any polling station should meet all those requirements, even though a polling station is not necessarily a new construction or major renovation. This is because Elections Ontario has the choice to locate a polling station in a wide range of different buildings.
3. We also want to ensure that Elections Ontario has consulted with the Ontario Human Rights Commission on this proposed standard. The Human Rights Commission covers the accessibility of polling stations. We are eager to know whether Elections Ontario has reviewed this draft standard with the Human Rights Commission.
4. Throughout the draft, options and point-scoring is offered for situations where a polling station does not meet the physical accessibility requirements in the standard, and where staffing is intended to be provided to assist voters with disabilities. By this approach a venue could be chosen and approved which lacks several identified physical accessibility requirements. It appears to be hoped that Elections Ontario staff will help voters with disabilities overcome these barriers.
This assumes that each of those polling stations will have enough staff to constantly be available at each point where the accessibility is lacking. It also assumes that these officials will be effectively trained, supervised and monitored to ensure that full accessibility is provided and no harm comes to any voters with disabilities. These are assumptions that Elections Ontario cannot readily make.
This draft standard should be revised to strictly limit where and when staffing can be used as a substitute for assured physical accessibility. It should ensure that where staffing is a substitute for any requirement, the Chief Electoral Officer must be satisfied that properly-trained staffing at the point in the polling station will be available at all times and that they will be regularly and carefully monitored, to ensure that there are no accessibility problems. It should require that the Chief Electoral Officer personally sign off and vouch for the sufficiency of these measures, including monitoring and supervision, before staffing may be used as a substitute for assured physical accessibility at any polling station. As well, the Chief Electoral Officer’s decisions on these should be posted on the Elections Ontario website to ensure full accountability and transparency.
5. The draft standard states:
“1. The Site Accessibility Standards for Elections Ontario do not require parking or provision of other transportation to any Elections Ontario location, including poll locations. Transportation to the location is the responsibility of an elector, including parking.”
We commend Elections Ontario for turning its mind to accessible parking, and for including some provisions on accessible parking in the accessibility standard. However, it appears to be acceptable, under this standard, for a polling station to be chosen that has no parking at all. This is unacceptable. We propose that the availability of nearby accessible parking should be a required factor in choosing a polling location. That it is the voter’s responsibility to arrange transportation to the polling station is no excuse for failing to require this.
6. The draft standard states:
“3. The standards for paved pathways are specific only to the location property itself and do not include municipal sidewalks or roads leading to the location.”
This is insufficient. The entire route from the road to the polling station must be fully accessible, or else the accessibility of the polling station itself will not be fully beneficial to voters with disabilities.
7. The draft standard proposes a process for a Returning Officer to ask the Chief Electoral Officer for permission to use a polling station or returning office location that does not comply with this standard. We have grave reservations about this potentially huge and unjustified loophole. We would prefer that this not be included in the accessibility standard at all. For example, why should a returning office be chosen that does not fully comply. If it is included, there should be a strict requirement that the Chief Electoral Officer not approve such a request unless it is clearly and demonstrably impossible to find an accessible location in that riding, and only if, once modified, the selected location will fully comply with this standard. The decisions and reasons of the Chief Electoral Officer, and the applications for such exemptions, should all be promptly made public on the website of Elections Ontario, to ensure full transparency and public accountability, to which the Chief Electoral Officer has repeatedly committed.
UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO