All Canadians have a right to participate in our democracy, regardless of ability. The next Canadian Federal Election is taking place October 21, 2019 and every Canadian of voting age has a right to participate. Under Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, everyone – including people with an intellectual disability – has the right to vote. Inclusion Canada has worked with Elections Canada and other national disability organizations to help make voting inclusive and accessible for persons with an intellectual disability. Every voice matters – exercise your right to vote!
The ‘where, when, and how’ of voting in a Federal election can be complicated, which is why Elections Canada offers many different ways of getting voters the information they need to know to cast their ballot. They provide voting and registration information in numerous formats, including in multiple languages, large print, and through audio explanations of the process. These resources can be acquired on the Elections Canada website or via phone at 1-800-463-6868.
The voting space itself must adhere to accessibility guidelines mandated by Elections Canada. There are 37 accessibility criteria, 15 of which are mandatory for all spaces. These criteria take account of ramps, the weight of doors, and exterior building lighting that ensures as many people can access the space as possible. As not all of the criteria are mandatory for a voting place, it’s important to reach out to your local polling station and make sure they provide the accommodations you need to cast your ballot. You can find the lists of accessibility criteria and polling stations, once confirmed, on the Elections Canada website.
Elections Canada also allows, for those who need or want it, a support person or family member to assist in the voting process. The only thing the support person needs to do is swear an oath to protect the secrecy of the person they’re helping to vote. Elections Canada will also provide election workers to help cast ballots if required. This accommodation is particularly important for persons with an intellectual disability – you have the right to support!
If you are unable to vote at a local polling station, it is possible to apply for a distance ballot which can be filled out at home and mailed in. Applicants must apply for this ballot in advance of the voting day, which can be done in person at a local Elections Canada office or by calling 1-800-463-6868. Once the form is completed, a confirmation of address and identity is needed which can be mailed, faxed, or submitted in person. After all forms are submitted, voters will receive their distance ballot which supplies them with everything they need to cast their vote in the 2019 Canadian federal election.
Voting is essential for a democracy – and it’s not a true democracy unless every citizen has equal and fair access to voting. Elections Canada has worked collaboratively with the disability community to help make the election process more inclusive and accessible for persons with disabilities across Canada. Inclusion Canada will be sharing more information on the federal election in the coming months; keep checking back as you prepare to vote!