Today is election day in Canada. I went to the polling place and, as I have done in every election in living memory, quizzed everybody in sight about accessibility.

First question was blind/visually-impaired voters. The poll clerk said they give them a template with Braille. The clerk reads the candidates in order, and the elector steps behind the screen to mark the ballot. Later, the polling supervisor and I looked at the template. It is unlike my memory from last time, which was of a black-plastic-backed template with a hinge at the top and Plexiglas around the holes. I distinctly recall that and recall being shown that it fits tightly around the ballot.

The polling supervisor admitted that this election’s template is different from the last one, but she couldn’t recall the characteristics of the last one. Nor was there actual Braille – I looked and felt all over the surface – but there were rather small and not-very-raised raised numerals in nobody’s favourite font, Arial. There were, if I recall, 16 holes. The supervisor nonchalantly pulled the template out of my hands before I could snap a picture, but somebody else got one.

The poll clerk could think of no occasion in which the room would be cleared, which is different from last time, as I was told that the room would be cleared if a blind person had to have the candidate names read to them.

Next, deaf-blind. Neither of them had received any training on deaf-blind people. Their answers on how they would be dealt with were identical to those for a blind person. I (anonymously) explained another person’s experience as recounted on a mailing list and thereby taught the supervisor the word “intervenor.” She admitted that she wished they had been given the fullest information (putting it in my terms) and that they had been taught words like “intervenor.”

Deaf people: The supervisor had no knowledge at all about practices for sign-language interpreters. Three deaf people had already been in that day, one of them illiterate; one of his friends helped him out, and the supervisor assisted him in teaching him how to sign his name and write “January 23, 2006.” I found this odd, but rather than engage in subject creep and branch off into the new topic of illiterate electors, I left it at that. One of the other clerks was alleged to “speak sign language,” but the supervisor admitted she was not a certified interpreter.

Mobility impairment: The elector can bring a person and vouch for that person, or the supervisor can assist in marking the ballot, or both.

I asked for any other details or interesting facts they were trained on and there were none.

I thanked the supervisor. “And if we get a minority government,” I said, “I’ll see you again in 14 months.”

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2006.01.23 13:44. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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