Inclusive Voting

With nearly 1 in 5 Canadian adults having a disability, and almost 1 million of these people living in BC, persons with diverse abilities have the numbers to have large influence on political outcomes and decision-making.

 

Yet, the reality is that this power is laying dormant, unused as voter turnout among persons with disabilities lags far behind the general population.

Why voting matters

Voter turnout among disabled persons is important for all the following reasons:

  • Persons with disabilities have unique experiences and perspectives to inform public issues

  • Without voting, disabled persons are more readily ignored by politicians, who gain office through election

  • There are many people with disabilities and they have the power to turn election results

  • Not voting perpetuates the damaging myths of disabled persons being passive and dependent

  • The more you vote, the less confusing the process becomes

  • Greater accessibility benefits everyone

  • Being civically active can be fun and rewarding!

The barriers

Given the benefits above, why is there such low voter turnout among persons with disabilities? 

  • Voting stations can be physically inaccessible or present sensory challenges    

  • There is a lack of accessible information for persons with disabilities about how to vote

  • Persons with disabilities do not receive the same encouragement to vote that non-disabled persons do

  • Damaging stereotypes have led many persons with disabilities to believe that they are incapable of voting

  • Lack of previous voting experience makes the process and practice of voting even more intimidating

  • Political info is confusingly written and often inaccessible to persons with intellectual disabilities 

Breaking barriers

There are thankfully numerous ways to help break down these barriers

Preparing To Vote 

  • Engage potential voters in casual conversations about how to vote, political issues, and rights

  • Offer reminders and encouragement about voting 

  • Assist voters with paperwork as necessary

  •  Ensure that public candidates or election meetings occur in accessible venues

  • Written political material should have plain English or Easy Read versions

  • Voter registration should be offered online

  • Election officials and volunteers should be educated about potential accessibility issues

  • Electoral and campaign offices should have a TTY phone that deaf people can call for election info

Voting

  • Advanced voting helps voters vote when it is best for them, often in a quieter setting

  • Mail-in ballots provide a way to vote for people who might struggle to vote in person

  • Transfer certificates allow voters to transfer to more accessible polling stations

  • Level access at all polling stations makes them more accessible to persons with mobility limitations

  • Sign language interpreter services should be provided for deaf or hard of hearing voters

  • ​Braille documents listing the candidates and parties should be offered

  • Voting templates and audio recordings also help visually impaired voters cast their ballot

  • Sensory reduction options such as a quiet room or noise-reduction headphones help with sensory overload

  • Transportation to the voting station should be available to voters who would struggle to get there otherwise

After Voting

  • Hold discussions with friends, family, and support workers to help the voter understand the election results

  • Staff and family should support the voter in expanding their social networks so there are more people to connect with over political issues

  • The rights and duties persons with intellectual disabilities have in society must be a focus in everyday life between elections, since participation in decision making is something that should permeate daily activities year-round in several environmental contexts

Other ways to become civically active

While voting is important, it is far from the only way to make an impact. Here are some other ways to get involved:

  • Contact your elected representatives and let them know how you feel

  • Attend a public consultation

  • Talk to others and educate them about issues you care about

  • Join an advocacy committee, such as the Vancouver Community Council

  • Speak at or attend a city hall meeting

  • Volunteer with a political party

  • Join a political party and attend their events

  • Attend a political party convention: these are where policies and resolutions are often made

And, in the words of Carla Qualtrough, Paralympian and Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion: 

"One thing that must be stressed is that you can be politically active and build your skills in many ways—you do not have to jump straight into running for office. I started as volunteer board member for a non-profit I was involved with, building my skills and passion for governance over time.

 

Another thing I recommend is to reach out to leaders and people with experience in the fields you are interested in. Before I first ran in politics, I called Rick Hansen and had invaluable talks with him about his experience as a leader and change maker."

Download Inclusive Voting (PDF)

Accessible Democracy Main Page​​