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Accessibility

Elections Canada is committed to responding to the diverse needs of Canadians.

We make every effort to make voting as accessible as possible and to engage electors with disabilities as we develop and implement our services. Our research shows that electors with disabilities face barriers to participating in elections, and we are continuously striving to remove these barriers. By building on the initiatives we already have in place, our goal is to continue improving the accessibility of the electoral process.

Accessibility Plan

In July 2019, the Accessible Canada Act came into effect. The purpose of the Act is to make Canada barrier-free by 2040.

We published the Accessibility Plan in 2022. Our goal is to ensure the full and equal participation of people with disabilities, including employees and field staff, in every aspect of the electoral process, by removing and preventing barriers. It was created in consultation with the Advisory Group for Disability Issues, Elections Canada headquarters employees, field staff with disabilities and other stakeholders.

The Accessibility Plan is reviewed continually to ensure that it remains relevant and that the agency stays on track to achieve its goals. To determine the progress we have made so far, we produce a report each year assessing whether we have met our accessibility targets.

We have also created an Accessibility Office to support the implementation of the plan and to monitor the progress we are making toward achieving our commitments.

Accessibility services offered by Elections Canada

We offer several services before, during and after elections to support the equal participation of electors with disabilities.

Community relations officers for accessibility

During general elections, we deploy a network of more than 2,000 community relations officers across the country to help improve access and reduce barriers to voting, including community relations officers specifically focused on accessibility.

The responsibilities of our community relations officers include:

  • Increasing election awareness
  • Providing information on where, when and the ways to register and vote
  • Explaining the benefits of registering in advance
  • Providing information on voter identification requirements, assistive voting tools and information available in alternate formats
  • Verifying accessibility of polling locations and ensuring that they meet accessibility standards
  • Acting as a resource for the central poll supervisor (CPS) to resolve any accessibility issues that may arise on polling day(s)
  • Assisting the returning officer (RO) with initial fact finding on issues reported on accessibility feedback forms during advance polling days, and advising the RO of findings

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Voter information in accessible formats

Key information about registering and voting is available online, in print and in the following alternative formats upon request:

  • Large print
  • Braille
  • Audio CD and files (i.e. DAISY)
  • Full transcription
  • Captioning
  • ASL and LSQ videos
  • Multiple Indigenous and ethnocultural languages

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Polling place accessibility

Using the polling place suitability checklist ensures that potential polling places are evaluated for accessibility before the election. Of the 39 accessibility criteria on the checklist, 15 are mandatory. A polling place is considered suitable when it reaches a balance among the following three key principles:

  • Accessibility: The highest suitability priority is that polling places provide barrier-free access for persons with disabilities. Subsection 121(1) of the Canada Elections Act requires polling places to have level access. Elections Canada has also established additional mandatory accessibility criteria based on human rights principles.
  • Proximity: Whenever possible, electors should be assigned a polling place that is within reasonable distance from their ordinary residence.
  • Familiarity: Whenever possible, electors should be assigned a polling place that they are likely to recognize because it has been used for another service to the public or in previous municipal, provincial, territorial or federal elections.

If a returning officer (RO) cannot lease a polling place that meets the mandatory criteria, they must consider whether steps can be taken to mitigate accessibility issues. For example, they could post staff at the door if their polling place does not have an automatic door opener.

If the RO is unable to fully resolve accessibility issues by implementing appropriate mitigations, they must get authorization from the Chief Electoral Officer before they can proceed with signing a lease for a polling place that does not meet the mandatory accessibility criteria. The Directive on Accessibility Exemptions when Selecting a Suitable Polling Place outlines the steps ROs must take in order to get the authorization to use a location that does not meet the mandatory accessibility criteria.

During elections, you can find out if your polling place meets your accessibility needs by:

Elections Canada offers additional methods of voting that do not require travelling to your polling place. Electors can:

  • Vote in another accessible location in your electoral district with a transfer certificate. Contact your local Elections Canada office for more information.
  • Vote at a local Elections Canada office (which must have the same mandatory criteria for accessibility).
  • Vote by mail using a special ballot.

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Accessibility tools and services at the polls

There are many services and tools available at polling places to help electors with disabilities vote, and election officers are trained to help.

The services offered include:

  • Assistance marking a ballot
  • Sign language interpretation (must be requested in advance)
  • Vouching
  • Signature guides (if someone needs assistance signing their name)

The tools to help electors vote include:

  • Large-print and braille lists of candidates (braille only available on election day)
  • Tactile and braille voting templates
  • Magnifiers
  • Large-grip pencils
  • Voting screens that let in more light

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Advisory Group for Disability Issues

In February 2014, Elections Canada launched the Advisory Group for Disability Issues to give advice on the accessibility of federal elections. The group helped to identify the best ways to inform electors with disabilities of when, where and the ways to register and vote. The advisory group has been instrumental in helping business owners design programs and services that meet the needs of electors.

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Inspire Democracy

Inspire Democracy is an Elections Canada program that works with stakeholders to reduce barriers to electoral participation. Our research has shown that there are four priority groups that face barriers to participating in elections: First Nations, Metis and Inuit electors, people with disabilities, youth and new Canadians. Inspire Democracy gives tools for engaging with community leaders and organizations that represent these communities.

For more information, visit inspiredemocracy.ca.

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Voter Information Campaign

To make sure that Canadians can exercise their democratic right to vote, Elections Canada conducts a Voter Information Campaign before and during federal elections to give Canadians all the information they need to register and vote in a federal election, including the promotion of our available accessible tools and services. This multimedia campaign includes a fully accessible website and multiple communication products in plain language. The Voter Information Campaign is tested by focus groups that include electors with disabilities, and some products are available in accessible formats (web, audio, braille and large print). We are now expanding the number of campaigns and products that will be available in alternative formats to better meet the diverse communication needs of Canadians.

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