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Report on the National Survey on the Accessibility of Potential Polling Locations For the 42nd General Election

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Foreword

I am pleased to present the results, as of September 28, 2015, of a national survey conducted by returning officers in 338 electoral districts on the accessibility of each potential polling location for the 42nd general election.

The evaluations were conducted using the Accessibility Checklist agreed to by all parties in the implementation of the orders in the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case of Hughes v. Elections Canada (2010).

While the tribunal did not order Elections Canada to undertake a national survey, the benefits of doing so have been significant.

This is the first time that Elections Canada has completed an evaluation exercise that applies a universal approach to assessing such a wide range of criteria to determine the accessibility of potential polling locations across the country.

The survey results allow Elections Canada to better inform electors on the accessibility of their polling location. The voter information card (VIC), mailed to all registered electors, will indicate the accessibility of the advance and ordinary voting day polling location.

Detailed information on the accessibility of each polling location will also be available to electors during the election period at www.elections.ca, once the locations are confirmed. Electors will be able to see which accessibility criteria their polling place meets by putting their postal code in our Voter Information Service on our website.

Marc Mayrand
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada

Table of Contents

Background

In 2010, a decision in the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case of Hughes v. Elections Canada required Elections Canada to revisit its approach to polling location accessibility. This report provides the results of a national survey undertaken to assist in addressing the Tribunal's order to "cease from situating polling stations in locations that do not provide barrier-free access." The Tribunal also ordered Elections Canada to "update its accessibility checklist."

The Tribunal's orders mandated that specific parties consult on the implementation of the orders. They included Elections Canada, the Reverend James Peter Hughes, members of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. The parties collaborated and reached consensus on an updated checklist. Elections Canada also launched an Advisory Group for Disability Issues in February 2014 to provide subject matter expertise and advice on accessibility initiatives for the 2015 federal election. Using the Canadian Standards Association's Accessible Design for the Built Environment as a baseline, the group established a checklist of 35 criteria, 15 of which are mandatory for a polling location to be considered accessible. Mandatory criteria were determined to be those which could be applied consistently to locations nationwide. For example, while parking (not a mandatory criterion) should be considered when choosing a polling location, many accessible buildings may not have their own designated parking areas.

The checklist, in the form of a questionnaire, guides returning officers through an extensive evaluation of a building's exterior pathways, lighting and access; the entrance doors, handles and thresholds; interior doors, corridors, lighting and washrooms; and parking options and lot conditions, to name a few.

This evaluation exercise represents the first time that Elections Canada has applied a universal approach to assessing such a wide range of criteria to determine the accessibility of potential polling locations across the country. It is also the first time that returning officers have been mandated by the Chief Electoral Officer to conduct an on-site evaluation of all potential polling locations. This was a huge undertaking, spanning more than a year. This new procedure is meant to ensure the selection of the best possible polling locations for all electors, taking into consideration the checklist criteria as well as familiarity and proximity for electors in that polling division.

Detailed information on the accessibility of each polling location will be available to electors during the election period at www.elections.ca, once the locations are confirmed.

Data Collection

The Chief Electoral Officer mandated all returning officers to conduct an on-site evaluation at every polling location being considered as an advance or ordinary polling location in their electoral district for the 42nd general election.

Survey Results

A total of 28,301 potential polling locations were evaluated across the country.

Table 1 below shows the aggregate responses to the questions on the Accessibility Checklist for all of the potential polling locations evaluated.

It includes results for 32 of the 35 questions on the checklist.

Results for three questions (2, 13 and 33) are not included as they are not Yes/No answers; they are numbers or measurements, which cannot be presented as an aggregate total. The complete Accessibility Checklist can be viewed at www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=vot&dir=spe/checklist&document=index&lang=e.

The total number of responses for each question differs because not all questions apply to all locations.

In the following list, the 15 mandatory criteria are identified as "Mandatory" and highlighted in green.

Table 1: Responses to Yes/No Questions on Accessibility Checklist
Question Yes % No %
1. Parking available? 25,902 93 2,002 7
3. Parking space(s) for persons with disabilities? 21,006 76 6,315 23
4. Surface of parking firm and level? 25,242 92 1,991 7
5. Parking lit? 24,818 91 2,299 8
6. Sloping sidewalk (Curb cut)? 18,823 69 8,195 30
7. Mandatory: Surface of the pathway is firm and obstacle free? 27,393 97 680 2
8. Mandatory: Pathway is at least 920 mm (36") wide? 27,561 99 280 1
9. Pathway is free of a long slope? 25,460 93 1,786 7
10. Pathway is free of a steep incline? 26,109 96 1,093 4
11. Mandatory: Building provides a level access to the entrance (no steps)? 26,529 93 1,922 7
12. Level access ramp is provided? 8,712 35 16,323 65
14. Mandatory: Exterior building lighting? 27,834 99 186 1
15. Mandatory: Building exterior is free of any protruding objects? 27,655 99 365 1
16. There is signage to locate the level access entrance? 15,204 55 11,788 44
17. Mandatory: Exterior door has a clear opening width of 810 mm (32")? 27,652 99 386 1
18. Door handles are easy to grip? 26,414 96 1,031 4
19. Mandatory: Door threshold meets maximum standard of 6 mm (1/4")? 24,378 86 3,663 13
20. An automatic door opening device is provided? 13,437 48 14,088 51
21. Mandatory: Weight of the entrance door allows it to be easily opened? 27,381 98 633 2
22. Door gives immediate access to the voting room? If yes, go to question 28. 11,615 41 16,212 58
23. Mandatory: Interior door(s) has a clear opening width of 810 mm (32")? 16,175 98 293 2
24. Door handles are easy to grip? 15,265 96 618 4
25. Automatic door opening devices are provided for interior doors? 4,638 29 11,268 71
26. Mandatory: Weight of interior doors allows them to be easily opened? 16,090 98 367 2
27. Mandatory: Door threshold meets maximum standard of 6 mm (1/4")? 16,030 97 447 3
28. Mandatory: Corridors have a minimum width of 920 mm (36")? 27,737 99 238 1
29. Mandatory: Interior of the building is free of any protruding objects? 27,256 97 862 3
30. Mandatory: Voting room is on the same level as the entrance? 27,189 97 929 3
31. If no, electors can access the voting room using an elevator or a level access ramp? 645 69 257 28
32. If use of an elevator is required, is a key necessary to operate it? 99 16 496 83
34. Mandatory: Interior lighting works? 28,062 99 26 1
35. Wheelchair accessible washroom? 23,348 84 4,346 16

Note: Responses to question 11 indicate that the entrance naturally provides level access; responses to question 12 indicate that level access is provided due to the existence of a ramp.

Information for Electors

During an election, a voter information card (VIC) is mailed to all registered electors to advise them of their advance and ordinary voting locations. During the 42nd general election, the VIC will indicate the accessibility of the voting locations by showing one of the following three messages:

Wheelchair imageThis site meets 15 accessibility criteria. Visit elections.ca for details.
Wheelchair imageWheelchair accessible. Call 1-866-241-7765 to ensure that this site meets your needs.
This site has no wheelchair access. Call 1-866-241-7765 to discuss your options.


Note: Wheelchair access = voting location meets the "level access criteria" but not all of the other criteria. No wheelchair access = voting location does not meet the "level access criteria."

Table 2 below shows the results by province and territory for all potential polling locations evaluated for the three accessibility messages to be shown on the VIC.

Table 2: Results by Province/Territory for the Three Accessibility Messages Shown on the Voter Information Card
Province/Territory Number of Locations Assessed Number of Locations Meeting Mandatory Criteria Number of Locations Meeting Mandatory Criteria (%) Number of Wheelchair Accessible Locations Number of Locations Not Wheelchair Accessible
Newfoundland and Labrador 587 516 88 47 24
Prince Edward Island 216 185 86 13 18
Nova Scotia 1,253 1,155 92 57 41
New Brunswick 1,065 941 88 47 77
Quebec 5,607 5,086 91 278 243
Ontario 11,182 10,499 94 427 256
Manitoba 1,472 1,415 96 35 22
Saskatchewan 1,290 1,205 93 55 30
Alberta 2,736 2,595 95 99 42
British Columbia 2,791 2,669 96 76 46
Yukon 27 27 100 0 0
Northwest Territories 43 41 95 2 0
Nunavut 32 31 97 0 1
Total 28,301 26,365 93 1,136 800

Polling Locations Planned to Be Used in 42nd General Election: Results by Province and Territory

Returning officers were required to evaluate potential polling locations in their electoral districts. However, only those that they plan to use during the 42nd general election are included in the results below.

Returning officers were instructed to complete and submit a Record of Decision for each polling location they plan to use. The Record of Decision provides their rationale for each location. When selecting the most ideal location, returning officers were instructed to consider all the factors below.

Table 3 below presents the results for those polling locations planned to be used in the 42nd general election. Locations that do not meet the 15 mandatory accessibility criteria or are not wheelchair accessible will be reviewed by the Chief Electoral Officer before being approved for use.

Table 3: Results for Polling Locations Planned to Be Used in 42nd General Election
Province/Territory Number of Locations To Be Used Number of Locations Meeting Mandatory Criteria Number of Locations Meeting Mandatory Criteria (%) Number of Wheelchair Accessible Locations Number of Locations Not Wheelchair Accessible
Newfoundland and Labrador 534 466 87 12 56
Prince Edward Island 132 116 88 5 11
Nova Scotia 789 744 94 26 19
New Brunswick 512 463 90 11 38
Quebec 3,086 2,870 93 98 118
Ontario 6,592 6,478 98 70 44
Manitoba 773 752 97 13 8
Saskatchewan 770 721 94 23 26
Alberta 1,377 1,338 97 29 10
British Columbia 1,462 1,421 97 22 19
Yukon 27 27 100 0 0
Northwest Territories 39 37 95 2 0
Nunavut 30 29 97 0 1
Total 16,123 15,462 96 311 350

Notes:

As polling sites are subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances, this table will be updated following the election to show the results for the final polling locations used.

Some of the "accessible" and "wheelchair accessible" locations will be temporarily modified only for voting days to meet certain criteria. Information on what criterion has been modified is available by using the "My Voter Information" section of the Elections Canada website at www.elections.ca. Should you require more details to determine if the location meets your needs, please contact your local returning office.

A Look at the Results

All provinces and territories have a high percentage of planned polling locations that meet the 15 mandatory accessibility criteria, with a national average of 96 percent, or 15,462, out of a total of 16,123 locations.

Of the 661 locations that do not meet the mandatory criteria, 311 do offer wheelchair access, while the remaining 350 locations are not wheelchair accessible. As previously stated, these locations will only be used with the prior approval of the Chief Electoral Officer.

Accessibility Information for Electors

The survey results allow Elections Canada to better inform electors about the accessibility of their polling locations. In addition, the VIC will advise electors of the accessibility of their advance and ordinary voting locations.

Detailed information will also be made available to electors in the Voters Information Service of the Elections Canada website at www.elections.ca. This service will allow electors to make informed decisions about whether their voting locations meet their specific needs.

Electors are encouraged to contact their returning officer should they have concerns about accessing their polling locations and/or to discuss other ways to vote.

Moving Forward

Elections Canada will continue to work with returning officers to support them in providing accessible advance and ordinary voting day locations.

Each voting location will be verified three times on advance and ordinary voting days to ensure accessibility is maintained during voting hours.

We have updated the Polling Site Accessibility Feedback Form to reflect the new accessibility criteria and will continue to use the process for providing feedback that was introduced in the 41st general election. The form will be made available at all polling locations and local Elections Canada offices, and is on the Elections Canada website in the Contact Us section. Electors can provide feedback on accessibility immediately at their polling location when they vote or by telephone, fax, regular mail and e-mail.

Returning officers continue to be responsible for following up on accessibility issues with electors and resolving them whenever possible. Details on the number and nature of complaints will be included in the 42nd general election statutory report.