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Accessible Polling Stations

Currently, no AODA standards require provincial or municipal elections in Ontario to be accessible. However, the Third Review of the AODA recommends the creation of standards mandating accessibility in politics and elections. In this article, we will outline the need for accessible polling stations.

Accessible Polling Stations

Every person in Ontario should be able to enter and move through their local polling station independently. Therefore, all venues that the government uses as a polling station during an election should be fully physically accessible. For instance, every location where voting takes place should have:

  • Accessible Parking
  • Accessible outdoor and indoor paths of travel
  • Ramped or level entrances
  • Automatic doors and wide doorways
  • Good lighting
  • Accessible signage, including features such as:
    • Placement at eye level, for voters at wheelchair and standing heights
    • Detailed information, for voters with hearing disabilities
    • Clear language or pictures, for voters with intellectual disabilities
    • Large print and good colour contrast, for voters who are visually impaired
    • Braille, for voters who are blind or deafblind
  • Line areas and service counters that accommodate voters using assistive devices
  • Lifts or elevators whenever there are stairs
  • Accessible public washrooms
  • Visual fire alarms

Furthermore, polling stations should have additional seating for voters with invisible physical disabilities who cannot stand while waiting in line. Staff may need to direct voters to this seating, if it is not near line areas. Moreover, staff should alert a voter using one of these seats when it is their turn to vote.

In addition, some polling stations may be locations where service animals are not always welcome, such as schools. However, service animals should always be welcome in polling stations.

Alternative Voting Locations

All voting for provincial and municipal elections should take place in locations that have these features. However, until more buildings are accessible, placing every polling station in a fully accessible location may not be possible. Therefore, election organizers should have plans in place to ensure that all people can vote, even when their local polling stations are not accessible. For instance, staff at polling stations can bring ballots outside the voting area, if a voter cannot reach it. For example, this may mean that someone votes:

  • Elsewhere in the building
  • Outside the building
  • At their home, or by mail

Alternatively, election officials should allow voters to transfer to a more accessible polling station. In addition, officials should ensure that every returning office is fully accessible for people wishing to vote in advance.

Finally, election officials should alert voters in advance that all these options are possible. For example, elections websites could list the accessibility features of every polling station. Each voter could easily learn whether their polling station had the features they need to vote independently. In this way, voters could make any alternative arrangements in advance of election day.

Once voters can travel to and reach their polling stations, they must be able to cast their votes independently. Our next article will explore ballot accessibility.