ODA Committee Update
dated Sept. 22, 2003
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
Elections Ontario Announces New Hotline For Voters With Disabilities Who Encounter Barriers In The Voting Process - ODA Committee Scores A Victory In Our Campaign For A Barrier-Free Election
September 22, 2003
Elections Ontario has established a new telephone hotline for voters with disabilities who need information or assistance in this election, or who encounter barriers in the voting process. This includes toll-free telephone access, and also includes TTY access for persons who are deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing. See their announcement below.
This is a significant victory for the ODA Committee in our campaign for a barrier-free election. We had written to the Chief Elections Officer asking him to take action to ensure a barrier-free election. Among our recommendations was the establishment for the first time of just such a hotline. We commend Elections Ontario for taking this step.
We encourage you to use this hotline to report any barriers you may face in the voting process, and to ask for any help with this that you may need. For example, check now to see if the place where your polling station is to be located is in fact barrier-free. If you have some concerns, call the hotline now. Don't wait for voting day! You can contact Elections Ontario, too, just to find out where it is that you are supposed to go to vote, if you do not know.
We have already received some feedback from some voters with disabilities that they are concerned that they may not be able to get access to their designated voting station. The ODA Committee, a volunteer unfunded coalition, is not able to investigate these concerns. We need you to bring them to the attention of Elections Ontario. Let us know what you have encountered, and what response you get, so we can try to keep track of this.
We remind you that Elections Ontario is responsible for barriers in the voting process. It is not responsible for certain other aspects of the election. For example, they have no control over barriers at all-candidates' meetings.
The ODA Committee again reminds you that it is important for all eligible voters to vote in this election. Circulate this announcement far and wide!
EMAIL ANNOUNCEMENT RECEIVED BY THE ODA COMMITTEE FROM ELECTIONS ONTARIO
To agencies serving people with disabilities:
This will confirm that our Voter Assistance Access Line will be activated tomorrow (September 20, 2003) to provide prompt assistance to voters with disabilities on Advance Poll days and on Election Day.
We are undertaking this pilot project as part of our outreach initiatives to ensure barrier free access to the election process. Should a caller report a difficulty in voting, agents have been trained to respond quickly with follow-up action and/or information.
Please note that the bilingual agents on this line are dedicated specifically to assist electors with disabilities by facilitating their access to the voting process on Advance Poll days and on Election Day.
Persons who wish general information on when, where and how to vote, and on the services available to electors with special needs, should still contact our Call Centre and select the line for special needs when prompted. Note our Call Centre also offers a TTY line. Specially-trained agents will respond to all calls. For your reference, effective September 20, 2003, our web site will provide the following information:
Contact our Call Centre 8AM to 10PM EST for general information on when, where and how to vote, as well as services available to electors with special needs.
Call our Voter Assistance hotline 8AM to 10PM EST - a dedicated line to assist electors with disabilities by facilitating their access to the voting process on Advance Poll days and on Election Day.
1-866-714-2810 / 416-212-3415
Please note that, in the event of high call volumes, Voter Assistance agents may direct callers who are seeking general information and do not require immediate assistance in voting to the Call Centre.
Please feel free to communicate this information to your clients or members and provide a link to our web site at http://www.electionsontario.on.ca from your own. Our web site provides an overview of services available to electors with special needs.
Jennifer Pringle and Maureen Juniper
Elections Ontario Outreach Programme
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