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Advisory Group for Disability Issues – Meeting Summary – September 25–26, 2017

Table of Contents


1. About the Advisory Group for Disability Issues

The Advisory Group for Disability Issues ("Advisory Group") is mandated to:

Many Advisory Group members are leaders of organizations, invited as experts, and are participating in a personal capacity. The Advisory Group's composition reflects cross-disability perspectives; varied policy focus; and gender, linguistic and geographic diversity.

From September 25–26, 2017, the Advisory Group was convened for the Annual General Meeting of its members. The following members were present:

Co-chairs for the meeting were Susan Torosian, Executive Director, Policy and Public Affairs, Michel Roussel, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Events and Innovations (Day 1) and Dani Srour, Senior Director, Operations and Field Governance (Day2). Discussions were moderated by a third party facilitator.


2. Day 1 – September 25, 2017

2.1. Welcome and opening remarks

Susan Torosian opened the meeting and introduced a new member, René Binet. She also welcomed Levente Janosi from the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, who was invited to represent hard of hearing electors at the meeting. She then introduced Stéphane Perrault, Acting Chief Electoral Officer, who provided opening remarks.

Mr. Perrault welcomed all participants on behalf of Elections Canada and thanked members for their ongoing commitment to the Advisory Group. He then provided an overview of the organizational environment for the committee, which included updates on the Sturgeon River–Parkland and Lac-Saint-Jean by-elections, pending legislative changes to the Canada Elections Act resulting from the previous Chief Electoral Officer's (CEO) Recommendations Report, and the agency's modernization of electoral services agenda. He concluded by thanking members for their input in improving elector services for the 43rd general election and wished them a productive meeting.

2.2. Policy on Polling Location Selection

Louise Tremblay, Assistant Director, Polling Locations Management Services, presented the new Policy on Polling Location Selection, which outlines the criteria for choosing polling locations in the next election. The purpose of the consultation was to discuss three factors that affect the selection of polling locations: accessibility, proximity and familiarity.

Members indicated that a polling location's accessibility should be more clearly communicated to electors, and that the notion of accessibility should include a balance between proximity and familiarity and therefore should not be considered separately from these factors.

On proximity, members noted that the availability of transportation services and personal service worker resources is critical to electors with disabilities, and that proximity to a transit stop should be considered in addition to proximity to an elector's residence.

On familiarity, members suggested that voting locations align across all three levels of government, and that if a familiar polling location is changed due to accessibility requirements, this information should be communicated to electors. According to committee members representing voters with visual disabilities, the familiarity of a polling location is more important than its proximity.

Louise Tremblay advised the committee that Elections Canada is closely monitoring the legislative environment for federal accessibility legislation.

2.3. Accessibility Feedback Form

Louise Tremblay also introduced the changes being considered in how Elections Canada obtains feedback from electors at the polls. Findings from the 42nd general election show that electors used the Accessibility Feedback Form to provide feedback on a variety of issues—not just physical access. For this reason, Elections Canada is considering a universal feedback form to capture all aspects of the voter experience. The form would be available to electors through multiple channels, including online, telephone and in paper at the polling location itself.

Advisory Group members expressed some of the benefits and drawbacks in a universal form. They suggested that in promoting the form, Elections Canada should clearly indicate its use for providing both general and accessibility-related feedback. They also commented on the advantages and disadvantages of different formats (e.g. comment boxes, drop-down menus, check boxes, etc.). Members agreed that the form should be simple to fill out, be written in plain language, and include pictures, icons and questions on accessibility. Elections Canada should also effectively communicate that the form is for comments related to both accessibility and the overall voter experience, and that it is available in multiple formats.

To conclude the segment, Elections Canada encouraged Advisory Group members to share best practices for online forms as well as examples of effective feedback forms that they have encountered elsewhere.

2.4. Guidance to political parties

Susan Torosian informed the Advisory Group that we are working with political parties through the Advisory Committee of Political Parties (ACPP) to make their processes more accessible. In addition to having accessibility as a standing item on the ACPP's agenda, Elections Canada will be developing an accessibility guide for political parties. Advisory Group members were asked to identify the topics that should be included in the guide.

Members suggested that the guide should include information and best practices on:

Members also suggested that the guide should provide information on available expertise and information resources on accessibility, including relevant agencies or organizations, standards and reference guides.

Susan Torosian wrapped up this segment and reminded members that the CEO has made some recommendations with respect to the reimbursement of costs related to accessibility measures.


3. Day 2 – September 26, 2017

3.1. Voter Identification Policy

Nicole Sloan, Analyst, Policy and Research, provided an overview of the voter identification policy and potential amendments to improve accessibility, integrity and efficient administration of the voter ID process. Advisory Group members discussed the current list of ID and suggested specific pieces of ID that could be included on the list, including the voter information card, subject to legislative changes that would allow the CEO to authorize it as an acceptable proof of address when voting. They also discussed strategies for communicating voter identification requirements to electors.

3.2. Ballot redesign

Craig Morse, Manager, Data and Systems and Danielle Nasrallah, Assistant Director, Communications Services, introduced the ballot modernization project. The aim of this session was to inform the Advisory Group of the project and to ask them for advice on which groups of electors should test the new design and what questions Elections Canada should ask in the testing. Members suggested people with varying sight-related disabilities as well as cognitive disabilities, including brain injuries. Members were also given the opportunity to provide feedback after the meeting.

3.3. Oath of Assistance

Anne Lawson, General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal Services, presented the potential change from the verbal Oath of Assistance to a verbal reminder administered by an elections official. Prior to the meeting, Advisory Group members were asked to consult with their communities about the proposed change. The purpose of this session was to allow them to report on what they heard.

The members' consultations revealed different opinions about the Oath. On the one hand, some members stated that the formal taking of the Oath was an important aspect of the voting process for individuals who receive assistance. However, given that the Oath is currently administered publicly, they further remarked that voters might receive unwanted and negative attention when it is administered. It was then suggested that Elections Canada consider the formal taking of the Oath in a private location. On the other hand, some members found that the Oath was unnecessary because it did not fully guarantee against interference in the voting process. In such cases, members felt it was important to ensure the integrity of the vote and to protect electors from undue influence, but that electors should be given more options. This also included options for a written Oath or reminder.

In general, members did agree that offering a choice would allow the elector to make their own decision regarding the process.

Anne Lawson noted that further consultation would be necessary.

3.4. Research needs

Mariann Canning, Associate Director, Outreach and External Relations, provided an update on the enhancements and improvements planned for the 43rd general election and advised members that we would be seeking their input to improve our service offering. Areas where Elections Canada will be seeking input include the tactile voting template, optical character recognition technology, ASL and LSQ interpretation at the polls, pencils used for marking ballots (which members tested at the meeting), examples of websites that employ effective online document submission interfaces, best practices for wayfinding at polling stations and other tools to improve the physical accessibility of buildings.


4. Forward Agenda and Closing Remarks

Susan Torosian thanked the committee members for their participation and for their continued commitment to the Advisory Group. She stated that Elections Canada would be in touch with members regarding the follow-up consultations.

Members' suggestions for future meeting topics included the use of plain language in documents and Elections Canada's communication strategy to disseminate information among communities of Canadians with disabilities. Elections Canada also committed to consulting the Advisory Group on voting by special ballot.


5. Appendix A – September 25–26, 2017, Meeting
List of Elections Canada Participants

Stéphane Perrault, Acting Chief Electoral Officer

Michel Roussel, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Events

Susan Torosian (Co-chair), Executive Director, Policy and Public Affairs

Dani Srour (Co-chair), Senior Director, Operations and Field Governance

Anne Lawson, General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal Services

Mariann Canning, Associate Director, Outreach and External Relations, Operations and Field Governance

Peter Ross, Legal Counsel, Legal Services, Regulatory Affairs

Louise Tremblay, Assistant Director, Location Management Services, Operations and Field Governance

Andreanne Rochefort, Chief, Outreach and External Relations, Operations and Field Governance

Danielle Nasrallah, Assistant Director, Communications Services, Policy and Public Affairs

Samy Agha, Manager, Policy and Research, Policy and Public Affairs

Nicole Sloan, Analyst, Policy and Research, Policy and Public Affairs

Craig Morse, Manager, Data and Systems; Operations and Field Governance

Nancy McLeod, Manager, Advertising Services, Policy and Public Affairs

Lisa Drouillard, Director, Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement, Policy and Public Affairs

Juan Melara-Pineda, Senior Outreach Officer, Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement, Policy and Public Affairs

Mélanie Charron, Outreach Officer, Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement, Policy and Public Affairs

Sharmila Biswas-Mistry, Outreach Officer, Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement, Policy and Public Affairs