April 12, 2010
What perfect timing! Just two days before the Legislature’s Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly will decide whether to amend Bill 231 to strengthen it, the Toronto Star has run a wonderful editorial endorsing our call for legislation to ensure that elections in Ontario are fully accessible to Ontarians with disabilities. (See the text of that editorial below.)
As well, the Sunday night TV news program on CFTO TV, CTV’s Toronto Station, ran a story on our call for Bill 231 to be strengthened. This coverage increases the pressure on the Ontario Government and opposition parties to bring forward strong amendments to effectively address the huge gaps in Bill 231.
We encourage you to:
- urge your local newspaper to also write an editorial in support of our campaign for fully accessible elections for over one million voters with disabilities;
- Forward this editorial to your MPP and urge him or her to support our call for Bill 231 to be substantially strengthened;
- Write a letter to the editor of the Toronto Star. Endorse this editorial and add your own perspective or experiences. You do not have to be in Toronto to send in a letter to the Toronto Star editor. Write the Star at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Post a comment on the Toronto Star web page where this editorial appears. That page is moderated, so they will review your proposed posting before deciding whether to display it on their web page. Go to: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/793651–disabled-voters-snubbed
For all the background on our campaign to strengthen Bill 231, the proposed new legislation which the McGuinty Government brought forward to modernize elections in Ontario, visit:
Toronto Star April 12, 2010
Disabled voters snubbed
It is widely recognized that disabled Ontarians are poorly served when attempting to cast an election ballot. Barriers haven’t yet been eliminated at many polling places, some of which feature multiple steps or doorways too narrow to accommodate a scooter.
As recently as the Toronto Centre by-election two months ago, one determined voter had to leave his wheelchair and grapple, with help, down a stairway to cast his ballot. Others struggled, too, to reach the ballot box at St. Joseph’s College School. It’s not known how many simply turned away.
This is frankly inexcusable.
Unfortunately, in Bill 231, a series of amendments to the Election Act now before the Legislature, the government ducks the accessibility issue. While stopping short of making it mandatory, the bill allows for possible deployment of “accessible voting equipment.” However, the bill specifies that such gear must not be connected to any electronic network and must generate a paper ballot – features that seem to rule out alternatives such as voting by telephone, the same way that many people now do their banking.
Advocates for the disabled are understandably unimpressed. “We deserve better,” says lawyer David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.
There are simple measures that could be taken, especially with a fixed election date. These include earlier determination of polling places so that disabled advocates may examine them to ensure that they are accessible.
Elections Ontario officials say they are trying to do better by giving field staff a more detailed guide for use in selecting voting locations. But that’s hardly enough, given the extent of past failures.
Lawyering up, the officials note that the law does not actually require accessibility for the disabled across the province until 2025. But the disabled shouldn’t have to wait that long to exercise their democratic rights. Accessible voting places should be written into the law now.