Final Report: Canadian Accessible Elections Town Hall 2021, July 31, 2021

Report to Elections Canada

Canadian Accessible Elections Town Hall 2021

Produced by Sterling Creations

July 2021

This report is based on the comments, feedback, and suggestions made by participants who attended and sent emails to the Canadian accessible elections tele town hall organizing committee held on May 29 2021.

A recording of this meeting has been used to assist in preserving accuracy.

Presenter: Susan Torosian, Executive Director for Public Affairs and Civic Education with Elections Canada. She is the senior official for accessibility, diversity and inclusion, and she will be responsible for establishing the agency’s accessibility plan under the new Accessible Canada Act.

Technical Support: Lori Baldwin of the CCB, BC-Yukon Division and Albert Ruel provided a brief overview of how the Town Hall will proceed and how participants will be able to engage, then passed the torch on to the session host, Donna Jodhan for introductions.

Moderator: Donna Jodhan of Sterling Creations and Louise Gillis, President of the Canadian Council of the Blind gave opening remarks and welcome greetings on behalf of their organizations. Donna then introduced Susan and her staff.

Elections Canada can be reached at:

Staff in attendance:

Susan Torosian,

Jannine Atkinson,

Juan Melara-Pineda,


Toll Free: 1-800-463-6868

TTY: 1-800-361-8935

*Note: This document uses Header navigation which allows screen reader users to navigate quickly through the list of sections within the document, and especially the list of questions asked of the presenter and her team.

Elections Canada Presentation:

Susan started her presentation by adding some context and re-stating that Canada is currently in a minority government situation which, means an election could be called at any time, and that Elections Canada (EC) as the administrator of Federal Elections must be ready to deliver an election when ever it is called.

Susan also indicated Election Canada’s pleasure in engaging with audiences across Canada in gatherings like this one, and that as this session is English only, Elections Canada is always happy to engage with stakeholders in both official languages where ever they may meet. Reaching out to electors is really important to EC, particularly Canadians with disabilities to share information about how they/you might get involved in a Federal Election through registration and voting, working at the polls or running as a candidate. It’s also important for EC to share information about accessible voting so they offer several tools, and Susan walked us through that in her presentation.

Susan indicated that the current pandemic has changed a lot about how EC delivers services and they want to make sure they share all of the safety measures put in place to ensure that voters have several safe options for voting if an election is to be called during a pandemic.

EC understands that Canadians have diverse needs and that accessibility can mean something different for everybody. Their long term vision is to deliver inclusive, universal and flexible services for all Canadians and are committed to continually improving their accessibility of the electoral process.

EC continually consults with Canadians with disabilities of all types to ensure that Canadian Elections are as accessible as possible. She encouraged participants to begin thinking about which voting options will work best for each individual as there are varying levels of service, and she walked us through them in her presentation. Some of these services will be available on Election Day, and some will be available upon request in advance. By planning ahead participants will be able to choose which one of those options will best suit their individual needs.

No matter how Canadians choose to vote, their health and safety is EC’s top priority and Susan walked us through some of those safety measures.

A question often asked is whether we all need to be registered to vote, and although the answer is yes, but most Canadians are already registered to vote, and but if you have recently moved, became a Canadian Citizen or have never voted you may not be registered. Canadians can go online to check the status of their voter registration at any time, or once the election is called individuals may register at their local office or at their voting location on Election Day. The later option does take a little longer however.

All registered electors will receive a Voter’s information Card in the mail about 2 weeks before Election Day, which will provide all their voting options and it will direct people to the EC website for more details as well as the accessibility of their polling location and local office.

Identification for Federal Election purposes can be a government issued photo ID, Civic, Provincial/Territorial or Federal, containing your name, photo and current address. For most people that will be a Driver’s Licence, and in some jurisdictions that will be a Non-Drivers ID Card. The other option is to show two pieces of ID, both must contain their name, and at least one must contain their current address. Examples are a Health Card and a Credit Card statement. There is a very comprehensive list on the EC Website.

The third option if citizens don’t have appropriate ID to prove who they are and where they live, they can declare their identity and address in writing and have someone who knows them and who is assigned to the same polling station vouch for them. Example, a neighbour

Accessibility features:

• Bigger ballots with Large print

• Large print and braille lists of candidates only on Election Day, because the braille lists take time to produce and distribute once candidates are confirmed

• Tactile and braille voting templates

• Magnifier with a light

• A signature guide

• For the most part, all polling locations offer wheelchair accessibility, although there may be some rare occasions where depending on availability of voting locations when an Election is called. All polling locations are evaluated prior to every election. Of the 37 accessibility criteria on the EC list as determined in consultation with the disability community, 15 are mandatory, including the need for wheelchair accessibility. Once the election is called you can check the EC Website Voter Information Services to determine the accessibility of your polling location by entering your PC, calling EC or checking your Voter Information Card when it arrives in the mail. If your polling location doesn’t meet your accessibility needs, you can call EC and have a Transfer Certificate done that will transfer you to a more appropriate polling location.

• EC also offers large grip pencils

• Sign language interpretation can be arranged in advance by contacting EC once the election is called.

• You can use your cell phone or other mobile device behind the voting screen as an assistive tool to help with some of these voting tasks.

There are a couple of ways to receive assistance:

• French and English interpretation from Elections Canada is available without the need to pre-book that service.

• Other interpretative services are available and must be booked in advance through your local Returning Office or by calling EC toll free

• You can bring someone with you for interpretation support. Interpreters can assist more than one voter and do not need to be eligible voters themselves, IE they don’t need to be a Canadian Citizen or over 18 in order to assist with your interpretation needs.

• People vouching for your identity can only do so for one person, except in the case of a worker in a senior’s residence or an institution serving persons with disabilities, in which case they can vouch for more than one person, and in fact all those living in that establishment.

• Those vouching for your identity and address must be an eligible elector, IE a Canadian Citizen and over 18 and with proper ID.

• You can get assistance to mark your ballot and that person does not have to be an eligible elector, however they will be required to make a solemn declaration to make sure they respect the secrecy of your vote.

• A relative, spouse or partner may assist more than one elector, however if you bring a friend, or a helper they may only assist one elector, and they will have to make a solemn declaration swearing that they have only assisted one person in the voting process.

• If you don’t have a trusted helper an Election Worker can assist with the marking of your ballot and will attest to the secrecy of your vote.

EC is often asked about the use of assistive technology such as Optical Character Recognition as a means of verifying one’s vote, and although a pilot project was initiated, the re-deployment of resources due to the pandemic forced the postponement of that project in order to ensure a safe election. EC is committed to continuing with that pilot once the pandemic is over, and will do so during any bi-elections following the pandemic emergency.

EC encourages persons with disabilities to work in Federal Elections, they support the employment of persons with disabilities and recognises the benefits of participation in the workforce. Their hiring practices aim to be inclusive and reflective of Canada’s diversity. Work in a Federal Election is paid work and there are different types of work during different periods of time during an Election, and they endeavour to be flexible for the needs of those who might not be available for work on, say a Monday, Polling Day. To that end EC has created a Tool Kit to assist those who may wish to apply for EC positions.

Susan’s closing remarks centered around the safety of the election process should an election be called during the current pandemic.

EC continues to follow the advice of public health officials and will adjust their services as the situation changes, however right at this moment if an election were called all Poll Workers will be wearing masks, there will be hand sanitizer stations, clear physical distancing markers, only one Poll Worker per desk working behind a Plexiglas barrier.

When an Elector goes to vote they will be required to wear a mask, they will be provided with a single use pencil to mark their ballot, or they can bring their own pen/pencil/marking device with which to mark their ballot, and they should maintain 6 feet physical distance from other voters and Poll Workers.

If an Elector has tested positive for, or has symptoms of Covid 19, or has been in contact with someone who has the virus, they should visit to apply to vote by mail. The deadline to apply to vote by mail is on the Tuesday before Elections Day. Once an Elector has applied to vote by mail that is the only way he/she can vote during that particular election.

Question and Answers:

Questions asked by participants will not be identified by name but responses given by Susan Torosian of Elections Canada will be identified.

Both questions asked and responses given are summarized.

Susan has responded both to questions asked directly and to questions sent in via the chat line.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to email us at

The moderator starts by asking Susan to give the URL and phone number for Elections Canada.

It is:

Tel 1 800 463 6868

Questions and responses

* Chat line question from participant:

The participant wants to know if there are any new changes since the last election?

*Response from Susan:

Pretty much the same but the ballot has been refined.

Text is larger and contrast is sharper.

* Direct question from participant:

Participant wants to know if there will be assistance at the polling station for voting or do they need to bring someone along?

* Response from Susan:

They can bring someone along or staff at the polling station can assist.

* Follow up from participant:

Participant wants to know if election voting markers can be trusted?

*Response from Susan:

Non partisan election workers are hired. They are trained to support the needs of the voter. If there is a concern over the election worker changing a response, then best to bring your own helper. Susan also clarifies that there is no Braille ballot but a Braille list of candidates. This list is only available on election day because candidates need to first confirm their candidacy before the list is produced. There is a Braille template that is used to mark the ballot as well.

* Question from moderator:

Could Susan describe the ballot?

Response from Elections Canada:

The ballot is a hard plastic template. There are slots that are marked.

The slots are in the form of circles. The ballot is held together by a clip so that it does not slip. Candidates are numbered on the ballot.

Poll workers can help with this process as it may take a bit of getting used to.

* Chat line question from participant:

Participant would like to vote at their preferred polling station but accessibility features are not known until one arrives there which is too late to exercise any options. What to do then?

* Response from Susan:

After the election is called, there is a 10-day period before the location of the polling station in a riding is confirmed. All registered voters receive a voter information card that tells you what the accessibility for the location of your voting station is. Accessibility for advanced polling stations as well as for voting day polling stations are given on the voter information card.

Returning local offices in your riding will meet all of the criteria for accessibility. It would be very unusual if a returning local office does not meet this criterion. Voters can also vote by mail or by special ballot if they are uncomfortable going to their polling station. This may be a bit more complicated. There may be times if polling options available to you are not accessible for reasons such as because of a minority government, or due to a pandemic because regular polling stations such as schools are not available. Schools are usually accessible but due to the pandemic they may not be available to Elections Canada. This is a challenge for Elections Canada.

*Direct question from participant:

Participant wants to know if the Wi-Fi at polling stations are enabled so that electronic devices can be used?

* Response from Susan:

Voting locations may not necessarily offer Wi-Fi. You can use your own cellular device with your 5G but no; Wi-Fi is not offered.

In response to the participant’s next question Susan states that there are no pictures of candidates on Federal ballots. The legislation is very clear with regard to pictures on ballots. Quebec is the only Province in Canada where there are pictures of candidates on ballots.

Pictures on ballots have been contemplated in the past but to date there have not been any changes.

* Question from moderator:

Moderator wants to know if the voter information card will be in Braille?

* Response from Susan:

No, it is not in Braille. However, if you type in your postal code on the Elections Canada website, you can get your voter information card in an electronic format. It is fully accessible and another way to get the information.

* Chat line question from participant:

What does one do when they get to a polling station and realize that it is not accessible?

* Response from Susan:

One should check out the accessibility of the polling station before hand.

There is a list of 37 items that are used to evaluate the criteria and it can be found on the Elections Canada website. You can type in your postal code on the Elections Canada website and it will give you a description of polling stations in your area. You can request a transfer certificate if your polling station does not meet your needs.

It is difficult to request a transfer certificate if you are at the polling station on voting day. This is why it is important to plan in advance to ensure that your polling station will be accessible on voting day.

* Chat line question from participant:

Participant wants to know what to do if a Blind voter arrives at a polling station and the Elections Canada worker is unable to find either the template or the Braille list?

This has happened in the past and help was given but the preference would be able to vote privately and independently.

* Response from Susan:

Workers are trained but Susan has witnessed this happening.

If this happens, then ask for the polling station’s supervisor to assist the worker to find the template and the list.

There is a supervisor on call at every polling station and they will be familiar with options. If this fails and you have your mobile device with you then call Elections Canada and they will assist.

* Direct question from participant:

Participant wants to know if proximity of polling station is one of the criteria for accessibility and how difficult would it be to get from public transit to polling station?

In the past the polling station was about 400 meters away from the polling station but there was a curb, a fork in the road, there were 3 streets that converged into one, and the polling station was on the third leg of the intersection. The participant had to take a cab in order to get to the polling station. How does one do the assessment for the actual location and the ease of getting to the polling station from public transit.

Participant also has a suggestion about how to identify voting information cards. It would be that there could be a cut in the corners of the card so that a blind voter does not accidentally throw the card away when it arrives in the mail mistaking it for junk mail. This could be announced in the promotional material.

* Response from Susan:

Susan likes this suggestion. There are some materials that are available in Braille, audio, and large print. A guide to the Federal Election is mailed to every household and can be requested in Braille, audio, and large print.

It must be requested. The list of IDs is also available in Braille, audio, and large print as well as the lists of voting assistance tools and services.

Accessibility guidelines for proximity have been updated.

Returning officers go out and do the assessment and they have been trained in this criteria. There are 3 principles for them to follow;

proximity to where a voter is located, familiarity, and accessibility.

Proximity to public transit, parking lot is reviewed.

A polling station may have been selected before the election but when an election is called the polling station in question may not be available for some reason. IE, a fire, or construction that was not known or because of the pandemic. You may be better off to get a transfer certificate in advance if your identified location is not accessible to you. Or vote at your local returning office.

* Comment from moderator:

Moderator says that they inadvertently ripped up their voter information card during the last election and hopes that Elections Canada can take the suggestion of the previous participant; to have a rip or cut at the edge of the voter information card.

* Response from Susan:

This suggestion will be taken to Elections Canada. All products in Braille, audio, and large print can be requested through the CNIB or from Elections Canada directly.

* Chat line question from participant:

Will there be free hand sanitizers and an alternative for those who are unable to tolerate alcohol?

Response from Susan:

Procurement of scent free sanitizers are confirmed but alcohol free sanitizers need to be confirmed. If one has an intolerance to alcohol, then it may be better to bring their own hand sanitizer. There is no guarantee that it would be alcohol free but it is going to be scent free.

* Comments from Technical support:

They walk in with their own sanitizer so they would not need to ask where to find the hand sanitizers. Nor would they need to worry about whether or not it is alcohol free. They usually clip it to their belt loop.

* Direct question from participant:

The participant is asking if there has been any progress made on the use of electronic voting machines as has been used for Municipal voting?

* Response from Susan:

This was one of the pilot projects that had to be put on hold but it is being pursued. It could be piloted in a by-election. Susan apologizes for this.

It has taken longer than it should have due to circumstances.

Susan confirms that it is high on the priority list and that Elections Canada knows how important it is to blind and low vision voters.

* Follow up comments and question from this participant:

Will there be training for staff for assisting vision impaired voters both at advance and at voting day polls?

Participant voted at the advanced poll in the last election.

Staff was under trained as to how to assist persons with vision impairments.

* Response from Susan:

Staff at advanced and at ordinary polls are offered training on how to assist electors. They are trained in the ask, learn, and listen model.

They ask how you can be assisted; they are given instructions on how to provide assistance to electors with varying types of disabilities but do not be afraid to tell poll workers what type of assistance you need.

They should be familiar on how to help voters with various disabilities but they should not presume. Over 300,000 workers are being hired but sometimes there are pockets where the training was not fully comprehended or that they are not fully familiar with those types of circumstances.

* Another question from same participant:

Safety issues such as there were no high contrast markings for stairs at the entrance. This was not available at the advanced polls. So it is important for this to be there for both advanced polls and voting day polls.

* Response from Susan:

The same check list is used for both advanced and regular polls.

Elections Canada will take a look to make sure that stair markings are on both check lists.

* Chat line question from participant:

Could there be an area on the voting card to indicate that one has a disability or would this be a breach of privacy?

* Response from Susan:

She is not sure. The voter information card is mailed like a postcard so that it is not in an envelope. There may probably be some privacy concerns.

This may not be the main reason and it is something that should be taken back and brought forward in future planning that may need to be considered.

Susan has also indicated that there is nothing in the check list to indicate that high contrast marking for stairs at polling stations are considered so this will be noted and taken back for future consideration.

* Direct question from participant:

Participant wants to know if there is a preferred OCR app that one should use when voting?

* Response from Susan:

No, there is no preferred OCR app. To keep in mind; if there is going to be downloading and scanning via the Internet there may be a compromise of your secrecy through transmission via the Internet.

If you are using audio, you do not want it to be loud enough to be heard by others. This will also compromise the secrecy of your vote.

* Question from technical support:

They use an app called Aira which is an interpreter service that permits a Human Being to look through their camera. Would this be permissible in the voting booth?

* Response from Susan:

This may be tricky as cameras and videos are not permitted in the voting area. This is because previously voters have shared how they have voted.

This compromises the secrecy of the vote and raises integrity concerns.

Elections Canada will take note and come back to Sterling Creations with a response.

* Follow up from participant:

Seeking clarification on camera oriented OCR apps. The differences between the be my eyes app and the Aira app when it comes to the use of both?

* Response from Susan and Juan:

This issue has come up before and the issue is that because it is a live transmission. It is the equivalent of you taking a picture of your ballot with a camera which is not permissible. Elections Canada will follow up with Sterling Creations. Thus, the Be my eyes app and the Aira app are not permissible.

* Chat line question from participant:

How would Elections Canada serve a voter during the pandemic who is not wearing a mask because of a medical exemption?

* Response from Susan:

Currently one is required to wear a mask when going to vote. Elections Canada is not asking for proof of a medical exemption. They are taking the elector’s word. There will be some exceptions however.

* Chat line question from participant:

Are there any changes planned for institutional votes? At assistive living facilities? And if the election happens during a pandemic will you encourage voting by mail or would you have an on sight voting station?

* Response from Susan:

Returning officers have been reaching out to over 7000 community living environments across Canada and are planning with individual facilities to offer safe voting services to meet their needs. Every situation is different.

Mobile polling facilities can only be run on election day based on the Act.

However, Elections Canada does have an adaptation power that allows it to offer a polling location for a period of time on a particular day before the regular polling day to enable facilities who want that kind of service with election officers working the polling locations.

Or it could be people working in the institution itself who would be trained to offer the service. Other options would include an assistant vote by mail service whereby Elections Canada would work with the facility where Elections Canada provides information, persons in the facility help electors in the facility to complete their application and submit their vote.

Services in those individual institutions are being tailored based on their capacity to work with Elections Canada to be able to deliver the appropriate voting service for them. Once the election is called one should check with the administrator of that facility to learn about voting arrangements.

* Direct question from participant:

Participant says that her CNIB ID that has her address and photo was denied as identification at the polling station at the last election.

What would be the reason as to why a CNIB card would not be proof of valid identification?

* Response from Susan:

A CNIB card can be used along with another piece of identification.

Participant goes on to say that they did not have a good experience.

Susan states that it was a situation where the worker did not understand what the rules were. Technical support states that the voter should be able to seek the assistance of a supervisor in order to advocate for themselves.

Susan states that one should always be able to ask for a supervisor when escalating.

* Chat line question from participant:

Participant asks why is technology not being used to help a voter to vote independently and will there be large print lists of candidates inside each booth?

* Response from Susan:

There are intentions to introduce technology but it needs to be tested to ensure that it meets security standards, that it would not compromise integrity and secrecy of votes. At the Federal level there are high levels of security standards. Some technology is used in other voting processes but there are particular high standards at the Federal level. This needs to be tried and true before being introduced in the process. There has not been the capacity to complete that pilot. This was because resources had to be diverted to ensuring safe elections during the pandemic. This is a priority and work will resume and will come to a by-election soon and will be rolled out federally once it is known to be safe and secure.

In the case of the second question Susan states that a request would need to be made. That this large print list can be brought into the booth. It may automatically be behind the screen in every voting booth. It is a poster in the polling location. One can also ask for a physical list as well.

* Direct question from participant:

Is electro sensitivity part of the training and can volunteers use their cell phones in airplane mode to follow this?

Or can other voters in the polling station be instructed to put their devices in airplane mode and can it be the same for others with medical devices with a wireless component as this could impact persons with electro sensitivity and hinder their ability to think clearly in order to manage their voting?

This could also lead to persons having heart arrhythmias which could lead to heart failures.

Or there could be other types of problems such as migraines?

* Response from Susan:

This is not presently dealt with in polling locations. Susan suggests that a person with electro sensitivities may want to think of other voting options such as voting by mail by applying online, or to arrange with one’s local returning office to go in and use the vote by mail process which is a special ballot application process in the office where it would be a more controlled environment.

Participant states that they would not be able to vote with their family.

Susan states that one could bring the family into the office to vote using the special ballot application process and it will be a customized service.

Technical support confirms that those who use OCR to scan their ballots, OCR apps will work in the phone.

Some of them do not require Wi-Fi so airplane mode will allow OCR to be used.

Participant states that they have been accommodated appropriately at hospitals and medical facilities so just wondering if this would be another place where persons with electro sensitivity will be so as well.

Susan states that Elections Canada will make note of the electro sensitivity concern moving forward.

Susan further states that at this time Elections Canada is not allowed to permit those who are taking a photo or picture in the booth to do so.

The concern being not sharing a picture of a marked ballot.

Technical support reiterates that none of the camera related apps on devices will be permitted.

* Chat line question from participant:

Would a voter be allowed to bring a folding chair if they have to stand in line for a long time?

* Response from Susan:

Susan says yes; one can bring a folding chair.

One can tell the greeter that they have limitations on how long they can stand and a seat can be found for you while you wait. One can look at the best times to go to the advanced or regular poll; busy time and not so busy time. Right after people finish work is usually very busy. At the opening of advanced polls in the morning is usually very busy. One can also use the local office where the vote by ballot process is available but has a few more steps.

* Question from moderator:

What are the hours for voting?

When do polls open and when do they close?

* Response from Susan:

On Election Day polls are opened for 12 hours and start time depends on the riding in question. For advanced polls starting time is 9 am and is opened for 12 hours. This will be confirmed.

* Direct question from participant:

Would telephone voting be an option during a pandemic?

Many persons would not want to rely on the mail in voting. Online voting would compromise voting. There was telephone voting in the 2017 election in British Columbia. The elector with a disability would call in, and the election employer would process their ballot.

* Response from Susan:

Some jurisdictions offer telephone voting but federally it is not.

The option is to vote by mail and there is a good relation with Canada Post.

Canada Post does not anticipate any mailing issues as long as it is mailed in an appropriate time line. In a pandemic about 5 million persons will probably choose to vote by mail. Counting capacity will be increased.

There may be some delays in the outcomes of the elections depending on the volume of voting by mail in a particular riding. Once the election is called there are deadlines to vote by mail. The Tuesday before voting day is the deadline. You will receive a special ballot application that contains instructions on how to return your ballot. You can drop off your ballot at a local returning office or get someone that you trust to drop it off. The secrecy of the vote is protected by an inner envelope and an outer envelope. You can also drop off your ballot at your polling station on election day in a special ballot box. This ballot box is manned at all times.

This option is for those who want to ensure that their ballot arrives on time.

Participant wants to know if telephone voting will be studied.

For those living alone it is difficult to use the mail in ballot option.

Susan states that a variety of options are offered.

Some of them are not totally accessible. Voting by mail has a few more steps. It takes a bit more planning on the part of the elector. The only options for voting by mail at this time is to either go to your local returning office or to go to your polling station on election day. Not sure when telephone voting would be made available.

* Chat line question from participant:

How binding are rental agreements for polling sites?

Specifically, can the site change the poll location to an inaccessible location within the sight.

* Response from Susan:

Returning officers will be going out over the summer and will be starting to negotiate the terms of the basis for potential polling locations. Some polling locations will change due to unknown circumstances that have happened at the last minute. This happens at every election and will probably be more so during a pandemic. Returning officers will have a plan A, plan B, and plan C for voting polling stations in ridings. They do their best to ensure that the accessibility, proximity, and familiarity criteria are met. If the landlord wanted to change the terms, then the returning officer would then go to plan B and plan C.

* Direct question from participant:

Participant states that sign language would be available if requested ahead of time. How about ASL because those special interpreters would not be available?

How about a special signing which is not ASL?

How is that done because you would not have these people and where would you go to find these people? Are they paid and is it the same process?

* Response from Susan:

One option is: If you have a particular translator; once the election is called, maybe give it a week, reach out to your local returning office, and they will want to make sure what your requirement is and they will do their best to ensure that you are accommodated. There are contractors across the country that can help to identify types of interpretation. Elections Canada works with an organization called Can Talk. There are 30 languages that interpretation is available in. Pre arrangements can be made for all of this. If you have a particular need, reach out to your local returning office and they will be best equipped to help you.

Participant wants to know if that person is paid.

Susan says yes.

* Chat line question from participant:

Can you give an example of accessible information that is included either on the voter information card or on the website?

* Response from Susan:

For the voter information card; wheelchair accessibility will be flagged, (partially accessible or fully accessible). Fully accessible means that it meets the 15 mandatory criteria. If it says partially accessible, go to the website, type in your postal code and you will be given every single criteria and whether it is fully or partially accessible. The website has a lot more detailed information. Space is limited on the voter information card.

Technical support asks if the voter information card goes out in large print.

Susan says no but it is available upon request.

* Direct question from participant:

If a person who is blind applies, would you find a job for them?

* Response from Susan:

There are a variety of positions available to help run polls. Over 300,000 are hired across the country. Returning officers try to hire persons of diverse backgrounds. IE., languages that they speak to serve their particular community, persons with disabilities. The employment of persons with disabilities is encouraged. Different types of jobs have different requirements. At the present time, Elections Canada does not spell out what types of positions would be most suitable for persons with disabilities. This would be something to work on.

Technical support asks if the Elections Canada computer system is accessible.

Susan responds that all Elections Canada public facing digital platforms are accessible. Not necessarily all of the internal facing tools and resources are accessible. The accessibility plan will include work in this area. Internal work for employees has not been worked on as much as it should. Elections Canada wants to hire more employees with disabilities at their head office.

Participant says that persons with disabilities should apply in order to get this process going.

Susan agrees.

Technical support and Susan exchange comments on markings on the floor and social distancing also being challenges for persons with vision impairments during the pandemic.

Susan also comments that the CNIB has been successful at having had some of their members being hired in the last election. She asks that colleagues and members of organizations be encouraged to apply and that Elections Canada would welcome these applications.

* Chat line question from participant:

Will there be accessible washrooms at all voting locations?

* Response from Susan:

Accessible washrooms are on the accessibility voting check list. They are mandatory, and an election during a pandemic could cause more challenges for Elections Canada on that front. However, this is a priority.

* Direct question from participant:

Participant says that they were told that if they were not satisfied with how things went that they should apply for the job.

No reason why a blind person could not offer to do some training.

* Response from Susan:

Susan agrees. She says that when you have a person with a disability doing the training that it brings it true and that this is an opportunity.

Participant says that when they went to vote in the previous election the template for the ballot could not be found, nor could the Braille list of candidates. When they were eventually found, they were in 2 separate locations in the building.

The supervisor did not have a clue.

Why are all these things not on the same table where the officer sits to verify who you are and everything else is there? Our tools should also be there. It should not have taken more than 20 minutes to locate our tools.

What is the training that is provided? This has been brought up several times before and should not be happening going forward.

Susan says that the point is well taken and that Elections Canada strives to do this. The tools should be front and center on election day.

* Chat line question from participant:

Follow up question:

Participant asks if they do not want to wait in long line ups, could they have the right to do a priority registration?

* Response from Susan:

When you go to the polling station and you indicate to the greeter that you have a disability and that you are not able to stand in a long line, they should be able to support you; not necessarily give you priority status but they would give you accommodation to make you comfortable. It would also depend on the circumstance at the time but they will do their best to accommodate you.

* Direct question from participant:

Participant gives the following example of a friend’s situation.

For a person who is unable to leave their home; how would they be assisted to vote?

Would the paper application be picked up at the local returning office, taken to the voter’s home, the voter would be helped to complete the application, application would be placed in the envelope and then taken back to the local returning office?

*Response from Susan:

Susan agrees but also suggest that if there is a person with a disability who is unable to navigate the online application process they should first call the local office by typing in their postal code on the website or the one listed on the voter information card. Then this office should be able to assist in helping you to get your application in for the vote by mail process.

people with a disability can receive a home visit but there may be some very particular requirements that are very specific in the Act. Susan says that they can come back to this question. The first thing to do is to call your local returning office and they would help you.

Participant says that the person in question is unable to dial a phone.

That she may find it too complicated for her to be able to vote.

Participant is requesting more information on home visits.

Could someone pick up the application at the local returning office, bring it to their home, have them fill it out, then return it for them.

Could that work as another option?

* Response from Susan:

Susan believes that someone could go to the local returning office with the person’s ID, and apply to have them vote by mail. They can pick up the ballot. Maybe someone could make that phone call for this person to the local returning office who has difficulty dialling and the local returning office can give the best advice as to how to proceed. They may be able to assist over the phone as well.

Technical support wants to know how easy would it be to get the phone number of one’s local returning office.

Could they dial 0 and ask the operator to connect them to a polling station or local office?

Susan says that they can call the 1800 number and Elections Canada will provide them with information on what options may be available and also try to connect them with the local returning office. The local returning is the best place to support unique circumstances.

* Chat line question from participant:

If one can request a mail in ballot up to the Tuesday prior to the election day, how can one get it back on time?

When is the deadline for return mail in voting packages.

Response from Susan:

The deadline to get your ballot into Elections Canada and assuming that you are in your riding and not outside your riding, when you mail your ballot it would be returned to your local returning office. Susan says that personally she would not wait until the Tuesday before election day. She would get that in well in advance. Once the candidates are confirmed and if one is thinking of voting by mail, she would get that application in sooner than later and get the ballot in the mail. The other option is for one to get someone that they trust to drop it off at the local returning office before election day. Or in a pandemic one will have the option to drop it off at one’s polling station in a special ballot box that would be kept safe and secure.

Susan says that for the last election they had about 40,000 requests for mail in ballots but this time they are expecting about 5 million.

Capacity has been increased to deal with this but some delays are anticipated which would affect the reporting of the outcome of elections in particular ridings where there are a lot of voting by mail. This takes longer because it is a manual process to make sure that integrity checks are carried out. That someone who applied to vote by mail and then voted in another way would be caught. Cross checks are made before counting takes place. This is why there may be some delays.

* Direct question from participant:

Participant wants to know how they can share information with Elections Canada on electro sensitivity as how they have been doing with the federal government.

* Response from Susan:

Participant can get their information re-laid back to Elections Canada through Sterling Creations who organized this event. They can get this information to Elections Canada and they can follow up with you. Elections Canada would certainly want to know how they can make their work locations more accessible.

* Chat line question from participant:

Can FaceTime video calls be used?

* Response from Susan:

Facetime calls are not used for voting services. It is all about the integrity of the electoral process.

* Direct question from Participant:

Is it possible for a voter to obtain a ride to a polling station? Can a person book a ride through Elections Canada? Will Telephone voting be available in federal elections?

Telephone voting in BC has been very successful.

It could be a wonderful opportunity for voting during the pandemic and beyond that.

* Response from Susan:

Elections Canada does not offer rides to polling stations. Many candidates do through their campaign services.

Participant wants to know if there could be a Braille ballot with a template for casting a vote given that voting by mail is not really an option for a Blind voter.

So that the envelope would contain a Braille template and a Braille list of candidates.

* Response from Susan:

This is something that has come up before but is not being considered at this time. This is not an option given the cyber security concerns. If vote by mail becomes more prominent after this election which it may, and it has been under utilized up until now; It would be something that would be looked at in trying to make the process more accessible to Blind persons and others. Braille ballots cannot be promised but it would be something to be looked at moving forward depending on the uptake of that service.

Technical support says that if they were able to get a Braille ballot then they would be able to use Be My Eyes or Aira and not to have to worry about the limitations of the booth.

Susan says that one can do that at home and not compromise anything.

End of webinar questions and responses

*Note: All comments and questions received by email to the Organizing Committee, , have been sent to Susan and her team for direct responces.

The CAETH2021 Organizing Committee would like to thank Elections Canada, as well as Susan Torosian and her team for this opportunity to host a town hall where Canadians with disabilities could ask their individual accessibility related questions.

We also appreciate all who attended the event and trust that we have come away from it with a better understanding of what we can expect when the next Federal Election is called.

Submitted by,

Sterling Creations and the Canadian Accessible Elections Town Hall 2021 Organizing Committee

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