ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO
June 9, 2014
1. Watch David Lepofsky as he appeared on TVO June 11, 2014 with Steve Paikin.
Would you like to see what the AODA Alliance said on this TVOntario program in the past? Here is how to see the last two appearances:
To watch David Lepofsky’s September 22, 2011 interview on TV Ontario’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin, discussing that election’s disability accessibility issues, visit
To watch David Lepofsky’s January 16, 2013 interview on TV Ontario’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin, during the race for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, visit
2. More Election Barriers
We have received word about more unacceptable barriers impeding voters with a disability, during this election campaign. Here are two separate issues that were brought to our attention by two voters.
First, on June 6, 2014 a blind voter, Steve Cutway, alerted us that he was not able to effectively operate the so-called accessible voting machine that Elections Ontario provides in each Returning Office. This device is provided to enable voters with disabilities to mark their own ballot and verify their choice, without needing assistance.
Mr. Cutway is no newcomer to accessible technology. He has considerable expertise in adaptive technology. That he encountered problems is a cause for serious concern.
We promptly brought Mr. Cutway’s concern to Elections Ontario’s attention. Below we set out our June 6, 2014 email to Elections Ontario. It forwards the email which we had received earlier that day from Steve Cutway. We also set out Elections Ontario’s June 8, 2014 email to Mr. Cutway and the AODA Alliance in response.
This incident is yet more proof why voters with disabilities need access to telephone and internet voting in provincial elections. It is wrong for Elections Ontario to continue to oppose deployment of that accessible voting option. Telephone and internet voting is spreading across Ontario at the municipal level. Elections Ontario needs to catch up, rather than leaving voting barriers uncorrected.
Second, on June 6 we were notified by another voter that due to vision loss, the voter could not read the voter card that Elections Ontario sent. The voter sent an email to Elections Ontario raising this concern and offering constructive improvements. Below we set out the voter’s original email to Elections Ontario, Elections Ontario’s response, and her reply to Elections Ontario’s response.
We thank both voters for bringing these unfortunate barriers to our attention. If any other voters with disabilities encounter accessibility barriers, please immediately alert Elections Ontario. At firstname.lastname@example.org and also copy us on that email us, at email@example.com
In our efforts to address accessibility barriers, we have in recent AODA Alliance Updates addressed specific barriers that voters with disabilities brought to our attention. These concerned people with mobility disabilities and people with vision loss.
We want to emphasize that we advocate for full accessibility of voting and of election campaigns, for all persons with disabilities. For example, an important recurring barrier facing people who are deaf, deafened and hard of hearing is the lack of proper communication supports at campaign events such as All Candidates Debates.
All disability barriers need to be addressed. Elections accessibility will be a priority for us no matter who wins the election this upcoming Thursday.
3. Permanently Available – June 2, 2014 Radio Interview on Inaccessible Cambridge All Candidates Debate
David Lepofsky’s June 2, 2014 interview on 570 News Radio in Kitchener Waterloo, on the May 29, 2014 inaccessible All Candidates Debate in Cambridge Ontario, is now available on-line for you to check out. Thanks to the wonderful generosity of Inclusive Media, it is captioned. To stream the captioned June 2, 2014 570 News Radio interview with AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky, visit http://www.inclusivemedia.ca/AODA/June2-570news.mp4
To see a transcript of David Lepofsky’s June 2, 2014 interview on 570 News Radio, visit http://www.inclusivemedia.ca/AODA/june2-570news.rtf
4. What Does the Accessibility Clock Say Today?
The accessibility clock keeps on ticking, counting down to 2025, when Ontario must become fully accessible to people with disabilities. A troubling 203 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. One hundred and nine days have passed since the Toronto Star reported on February 20, 2014 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
As well, 285 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.
We conclude with a bit of accessibility history. A long 33 years ago today, our great-grandfather coalition, the Ontario Coalition on Human Rights for the Handicapped, made a presentation to a Standing Committee of the Ontario Legislature. The Standing Committee was considering a bill to amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to add protection against discrimination to persons with disabilities. The Legislature later passed that bill, which became law in 1982.
On that day one third of a century ago at the Legislature, one of the presenters for that coalition was David Lepofsky, now chair of the AODA Alliance. The chair of that Standing Committee was a young Conservative MPP, Mike Harris — who would later go on to be a two-term premier of Ontario.
Send your feedback to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org
June 6 Email to Elections Ontario from the AODA Alliance, Forwarding a Complaint which the AODA Alliance Received from Steve Cutway To: Info; Susan McMurray
Cc: Steve Cutway
Subject: FW: Accessible voting machine is inaccessible
I am forwarding a complaint we received from a voter in the Kingston area. Mr. Cutway has a great deal of experience with accessible information technology for blind people like himself.
Could you please address his concerns, and take steps to ensure that this problem does not recur across Ontario as voting day approaches. Please let us and Mr. Cutway know what response you have and what steps Elections Ontario takes. Mr. Cutway has given us permission to forward this information to you and to make it public.
We would respectfully propose that if some people have problems with the accessible voting machine and others do not, that shows that this specific solution to voting barriers is not sufficiently reliable.
From: Steve Cutway Sent: June-06-14 2:49 PM
Subject: Accessible voting machine is inaccessible
Ive received your e-mail updates for years and am personally acquainted with Mr. Lepofsky.
I want to share my most recent experience trying unsuccessfully to use the Elections Ontario accessible voting machine.
I am totally blind. As luck would have it, I live in walking distance to the Kingston and the Islands returning office. My neighbour has been working there full time during the election and my wife will be working there on election day. I had a positive experience using the voting machine in 2011 but that experience was unfortunately not repeated today.
I called the returning office last Monday to make sure they had an accessible voting machine. The first person I talked to said that yes, they had a Braille ballot. I told her that wasnt what I wanted so she put me on hold. The second person was no more helpful so I was put on hold again. The third person said that they did, indeed have an accessible voting machine so I went there today to use it.
A Poll Clerk prepared the machine for my use and said that trying it herself, she found it necessary to press the blue button in order for the completed ballot to be printed. I asked her which was the blue button and she said, the button right here and I assume pointed to it. That was the first sign of trouble.
She gave me the headphones which I put on. I was eventually greeted with an audio message that said, for English instructions, press the red Select key. I had not been given much opportunity to examine the keypad before beginning the voting process so I didnt know which key was the red key. But a cursory exploration turned up Braille labels that should have been helpful but werent because it was unclear which label belonged to which key. For example, the Braille Select label was above what I believe was the red Select key; but below that key was a Braille label that read Help. I dont know if there was a key or button below that label.
I pressed what I believed to be the red Select key and must have gotten it right because the instructions continued in English.
Next, I was asked which input I wanted. I was told to press various keys to choose the option I wanted but the keys were identified by their colours not by position so I had no idea which key to press for headphones, which I believe the instructions called Audio, although I am not sure of that. The first time, I pressed the wrong key and was told I could use Sip and Puff.
At this point, I sensed that the Poll Clerk was becoming a bit flustered. She thought that if I didnt do anything, Id be given a chance to choose another input. I wasnt, so she restarted the process. Again, I chose the wrong input. At that point, I gave up and my wife marked my ballot for me.
Ive been trying to recall what was different in 2011 and I believe that the Poll clerk selected the input I wanted.
The City of Kingston used computerized voting in our 2010 municipal election and that experience was light years better than either the 2011 or todays experience voting in the provincial election.
Before 2010, my wife marked my ballot for almost 40 years. I trust her. But the idea of being able to vote reliably independently was appealing. However, until Elections Ontario improves accessible voting, I will be encouraging anyone with a print disability to identify a trusted friend or family member to mark their ballot for them.
I applaud the AODA Alliance for trying to ameliorate accessible voting in Ontario and Im sure youre as frustrated as I am with the lack of progress in this regard.
June 8, 2014 Email from Elections Ontario to Steve Cutway and the AODA Alliance
Dear Mr. Cutway,
First, we want to apologize for your recent experience where you were not able to mark your ballot using Elections Ontarios Assistive Voting Technology. This important initiative is part of Elections Ontarios efforts to make voting easier by providing more choices for all electors and integrating accessibility wherever possible. We are more than disappointed that the experience was not a positive one for you. We have spoken with the Returning Officer in your electoral district and she would also like to send her most sincere apologies.
The Returning Officer is working with the staff who support the Assistive Voting Technology in order to avoid this problem recurring. She is going step-by-step through the voting process with the staff, using a script we provided them recently, and which we have asked be reinforced by all returning officers across the province.
Thank you for providing feedback so that we are aware of your experience. We welcome it at any time and you can contact us directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Following the election, we will reassess the equipment and the process so that this situation does not happen again. Please accept our deepest apologies for your experience.
Manager, Policy, Research and Accessibility
June 6, 2014 Email from A Voter to Elections Ontario and the AODA Alliance
I was born almost totally blind as well as physically disabled. The cards sent out to people to let them know the location of their polling stations needs to be redesigned to make it more accessible. First, there’s something yellow on one side of the card (not sure what it is), and I’m pretty sure that even fully sighted people know yellow on a white background is almost impossible to see since it doesn’t provide nearly enough contrast. Second, most of the print on the card (especially the info we need most) is very small and therefore inaccessible or barely accessible to people with low vision. As for people who are totally blind or don’t have enough vision to read print at all, these cards are completely useless. You need to find some way of making the info on these cards accessible to blind/low-vision people. If your website has a way for people to find their nearest polling station, then that needs to be much more widely advertised (on radio, TV, etc.) so we know how to get the info we need. You should also consider designing your mail-out cards with larger print, all elements in high-contrast colors, and with some kind of tactile marker that would help blind people identify it as their voter card. I really hope you’ll consider implementing my suggestions and make your cards/info more accessible for everyone. Thanks, and take care.
June 8, 2014 Email from Elections Ontario to the Voter
Thank you for emailing Elections Ontario with your advice for improving our communication and materials for electors.
You had three suggestions for the Notice of Registration Card, which is the name we call the card. 1. make our yellow logo (which is an X) high-contrast; 2. increase the size of the print on the card; and 3. include a tactile marker that would help people who are blind to identify it as their voter card.
After receiving public feedback during the 2011 general election, we increased the print size somewhat for this election. Since the cards for some electoral districts contain a lot more information than in other electoral districts we still had to keep the print size relatively small to allow space for information and meet post office requirements. But, thank you for your three suggestions. We will be reassessing the card (content and appearance) after the 2014 general election, and will take your suggestions into consideration at that time.
Your next point was also very important. You noted that for people who are fully blind or are otherwise unable to read print, the cards do not provide a service.
We are pleased to report that our website, www.wemakevotingeasy.ca, contains applications that allow people to find out if their name is on the voters list, find out where their voting location is, and find out how to contact their returning office. However, for the website to be useful to voters, people must either be aware of the website or be able to locate it easily.
To promote the 2014 general election, Elections Ontario ?advertised across a full range of media, including television, radio, newspaper and online. TV ads were close captioned, and the householder brochure is available in English on AMI. Accessibility tools were a key feature in the ads. We also do outreach to community groups that work with electors who may experience barriers to voting.
Following each election, we conduct a public opinion survey. Some of the questions in the survey ask whether people saw our ads and knew about our services. We will use that survey information, plus your feedback and that of others, to re-assess all our communication and marketing tools that target external audiences.
Thank you for sharing your suggestions with us. We appreciate your input.
51 Rolark Drive
Toronto, Ontario M1R 3B1
Elections Ontario www.elections.on.ca
1.888.668.8683 Fax: 416.326.6210
June 8, 2014 Second Email from the Voter to Elections Ontario
Thanks for your e-mail and your info. As for your ads, I don’t have a TV and radio is my main source of daily info (680 News to be exact).
I haven’t heard any of your ads so far. But thanks for considering my suggestions. Take care, and have a great weekend.