Another Satisfied Customer

The subject of bad voting experiences for those with disabilities has come up before, and it’s about to come up again.

Brad went out and voted yesterday like you all should have, and as happens so many times when you’ve got something the matter with your eyes or anything else, it didn’t go well. Nobody argued with him over what Braille is, but this is still completely unacceptable and should not be happening in a time where things are moving towards ease and accessibility for everyone.

Here’s what he wrote about his experience. I think a version of this is going to wind up as a letter to the editor of his local newspaper, and so it should. More people need to know how horrible the act of voting with a disability can be. That’s the only way it might ever get better.

As a rule, I am not the first person to make a huge deal about whether or not something is accessible for everyone, but this is about to change.

Like many other Canadians, I went out and did my part by voting. Even though many of my fellow Canadians learned very little from the last government when it held a minority, we now have a Conservative majority. This is by no means any fault of mine. Might as well take down the border between Canada and the U.S, we’ll be clones soon enough now. But, let’s save that for another time.

All went relatively smoothely until my turn to go in behind the box and vote. Then, what to my nearly sightless eyes should appear? Well, you guessed it, nothing. No tactile overlay with holes, no Braille overlay so I could tell whose box to X. Nothing at all.

Wouldn’t you think that in Brantford, a city likely having the most blind citizens per capita in Ontario, that something would have been done to make it possible for a visually impaired person to mark their own balett?

When I was first old enough to vote, I lived in Tavistock, a small town near Stratford. They had the tactile overlay. One of the ladies working there took me behind the box and explained which hole was who, then left while I marked. That was fine. What happened this year was not.

Luckily for myself and the people at the Polling Station especially, I had come with my neighbor. They got him to help me; actually, they got him to X my balett “on my behalf.” Is that even legal? Does anyone else see a problem with this? I don’t see much, but that was obviously not the thing to be doing. Everything is supposed to be super-private, and you make me vote like this? What happened to the whole privacy thing?

I know for a fact that we were both voting the same as we discussed it on the way to the Polling Station, but what if we weren’t? What if he was not the type of person to mark who I said I wanted? What if I had gone alone? We’ll never know because after being marked, the balett was folded, and suddenly an object of secrecy, as it should have been all along.

I wish I had spoken up at the time and made a complaint, but there were others waiting to vote and I didn’t want to hold up the line. But, rest assured, next time, I will say something. I don’t know whether or not any other blind people in Brantford had this problem, or if it was just my particular Poling Station. But, if a small town like Tavistock can make voting accessible to all, why can’t a large city such as Brantford follow suit?

Brad Wettlaufer

If you had a similar experience, let people know. Write your newspapers, write your MP, hell, send it to me and perhaps I’ll put it up here. And if you want to let Elections Canada know how you’re feeling, fill out this form and send it in. There’s no good reason why the government can’t do better.

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