Elections Canada’s recent efforts to make the voting process more accessible across the country have addressed but not eliminated the challenges that disabled voters often encounter at the polls, observers say. The national electoral body has poured resources into improving accessibility protocols and procedures in the five years since it was taken to task by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. But advocacy groups and observers say disabled voters will likely still encounter some inaccessible polling stations, ballots that cannot be marked independently and a shortfall of election day supports on Oct. 19. James Hicks, national co-ordinator with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, said Elections Canada has made accessibility an evident priority in the 18 months since it began consulting with disability organizations across the country.
The system, he said, has options and accommodations that did not always exist. “Is it perfect? No. It’s a lot better than it has been in the past for sure.”
Elections Canada’s history with the country’s disabled community could charitably be called checkered. Aspects of the entire voting process, from the distribution of pre-election material to the way ballots were cast, have been criticized by various disability groups over the years.
But one high-profile incident prompted the agency to revisit its processes after it was reprimanded by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in 2010.