By Sue Tiffin
In a Haliburton County joint accessibility committee meeting held May 11, municipal election accessibility plans for each of the four municipalities were reviewed. The plans for each of the municipalities look to ensure that electoral services are accessible and barriers to voting for people with disabilities are identified and eliminated.
Election staff have been trained on accessible customer service, which includes guidance on what to do if a person has difficulty accessing election information or services, and how to provide voter assistance if necessary. Support people are able to accompany a person with disabilities by appointment and upon signing a declaration, service animals are permitted and interpreters who are not candidates or scrutineers are permitted. In some townships, digital voting stations will be set up for 10 days prior to election day with trained election officials on site for anyone to use, and in some cases for accessibility purposes, a tablet can be brought to vehicles to allow residents to vote by curbside method.
In-person voting will be available in sites deemed to be accessible with accessible parking and washrooms, signage, level and slip-resistant floors, well-lit areas and seating, and space to use mobility devices.
In some municipalities, voters will be able to vote by telephone or internet from Oct. 14 to election day on Oct. 24. In Minden Hills, advance voting takes place from Oct. 8 to Oct. 24.
“By allowing persons with disabilities to vote from any location and from a selection of methods, there is a potential increase in the capability for the individual to vote without any assistance,” reads the Algonquin Highlands plan. “This provides persons with disabilities the same independence and privacy in participating in the election as other voters.”
After reviewing the plans, the committee agreed to recommend to each municipality that they offer a sort of “customer satisfaction survey” post-vote to those who accessed services on offer, to ensure they were appropriate.
“Every effort should be made to follow-up with individuals who required assistance to ensure the accommodations met the needs of individuals and allow opportunity for suggestions on how the process could be improved in future elections,” said CAO Mike Rutter, summarizing comments made by Councillor Cec Ryall and committee members Sarah Levis and Phylis Baker.
“Knowing how helpful people found the support is going to be very useful,” Levis said.