Latest Elections Ontario Accessibility Scoop

When I posted the thing about the home visits option for voting in the provincial election, I had some questions. At this home visit, would you be able to use the assistive voting devices? What kind of assistance was offered?

I figured I’d phone Elections Ontario and ask. And here’s what I found out.

If you select a home visit, you will not get the assistive voting device. It’s just someone coming to your hone because for whatever reason you find it hard to get to the polling station. So, if you can’t get to the polling station because you have vision troubles and have trouble navigating to where it is, or you have another impairment that may make it necessary for you to use sip and puff or the paddles that come with the device, and you choose a home visit, be aware that you’ll just have to use the “braille template” or the printed ballot and get assistance, and take the same gamble as I’ve talked about when voting before the audio voting came along.

Also, I finally confirmed that yes, in fact, the assistive voting devices will only be at returning offices, not even advance polls. But unlike in the federal election, you can vote at your returning office up to the day before election day. So, if the returning office is in an accessible and convenient location, it does provide more flexibility in terms of opportunities to vote. Would be nice if the option was available at advance polls and election day though. Yes, I know the machine is huge, but if the city of Guelph can make audio voting machines be available at all advance polling stations as well as at election day, what’s holding back an entire province?

I saw one of these suckers, and they are suuuper cool. Not only can you vote using audio and pressing buttons on what looks like the biggest game controler you’ve ever seen, you can use paddles to vote if you can’t use your hands I guess, and you can also use sip and puff, where you blow into a straw-like thing to make your selections. Isn’t that just awesome?

So if you could benefit from any of these features, make the trek to your returning office and make use of the machine. Also, if enough people use the machine, they will note the demand.

On the subject of home visits, here’s the killer. You have to book a home visit by August 30. But they don’t tell you where your returning office is until the first week of September. For me, I will vote independently if I can at all. But if I find out that my returning office is on a dangerous part of Woodlawn Road where there is no sidewalk, for example, I may think gee I could have benefitted from a home visit, even though it would suck to have someone come to my home only to carry out an inaccessible voting process. It’s the same killer as holding major debates after advance polls are finished.

Believe me, I know how hard it is to juggle deadlines, and they have to lease all these temporary buildings across the province and assess each location for parking/wheelchair/other stuff accessibility. But there’s something a little wrong with not knowing all your options before making a choice.

Two things I have to mention about calling Elections Ontario. I guess you get this anywhere, but the variance in amount of knowledge between reps is staggering. The first rep I got, as soon as I started asking accessibility questions, started telling me to email Elections Ontario’s info address. But I decided goddamn it, people who phone about accessibility concerns don’t always have email, I’m going to squeeze the response out of them by phone. When I eventually mentioned to her that I was surprised at how little training Elections Ontario was giving their general reps, considering they were unveiling this great big accessibility platform, she told me I should have asked to be transferred to their accessibility team.

I beg your pardon? I, the customer, am supposed to tell her, the person with all the knowledge and training, what I have to do to get the answers I’m seeking? And if all us folks with accessibility concerns are supposed to go to the accessibility team, why isn’t that an option on the automated menu?

But another friend said she called Elections Ontario, and the first person she talked to gave her all the answers she needed without any trouble at all.

When I did get someone from accessibility, she did do quite a thorough job. I think she learned a thing or 2 as well. I liked the fact that she actually took the time to verify things. For instance, she thought the Braille templates had a list of the candidates brailled so you could cast your vote independently by lining up the hole with the candidate. But when I asked her to confirm that, she came back and said no they didn’t. It was the news I was expecting, but at least she didn’t set me up for a massive disappointment.

She also gave me a link to a far more accessible version of the “More Days More Ways” catalogue. The first copy I saw was a hideously inaccessible PDF version. This one I could actually read.

So, that’s the latest on what I know about how this here election is going to work. Oh, and in searching through our elections tag, all I have to say is what happened?

Also, after you vote, there is supposed to be a feedback form. If you have things to say about your experience, speak. The only way they’ll know different viewpoints is if people speak. She laughed at me because I said I can’t really try out every voting method and give feedback, ya know, electoral rules kinda frown on that. But it’s true. Everybody who does the home visits, the advance polls, the voting by returning office, provide them with feedback. It’s the only way they can learn and grow.

Happy voting when it comes time, everybody. We can pray for maybe things turning out better than they appear.

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