We Are Voters; We Are Canadians with Disabilities

As in every Federal Election, CCD has been using a disability lens to review the platforms of the Parties fielding candidates across Canada. Throughout this exercise, CCD has been reminding all the parties that people with disabilities need to see themselves reflected in all the promises brought forward during the election. As has been noted on many different occasions, anyone can acquire a disability through the process of living; the incidence of disability increases with aging. We are students. We are moms and dads. We are caregivers. We are workers. We are job seekers. We are veterans. We are farmers. We are entrepreneurs. We are pensioners. We are also people with disabilities; thus for politicians to deliver fully on the promises they have made they must take into account how these policies will be inclusive of Canadians with disabilities. Exclusionary policies mean that some Canadians with disabilities will be left behind.

Throughout its more than three decades of work at the Federal level, CCD has advanced the position that disability is a nonpartisan issue. CCD shares its concerns with politicians of every stripe. It encourages all Canada’s Parties to address disability issues. Through the various House of Commons committees, which have addressed disability issues, we have seen a nonpartisan approach to disability issues result in thoughtful reports with recommendations in keeping with the views of the disability community. Interaction with citizens while on the campaign trail is important preparation for an MP’s future Committee work. CCD is hopeful that the candidates running in this election listen carefully to the Canadians with disabilities who share their personal views, ask questions at rallies and suggest what needs to be done to address the barriers they are experiencing.

Canadians with disabilities are not disengaged from the federal political process. The self-representational organizations have been working for many years to make the electoral process more accessible so that people with disabilities do not encounter barriers when they go to vote. CCD and its member groups have used a variety of means to encourage Elections Canada to eliminate barriers. Most recently, CCD has worked with Elections Canada on a pilot project exploring the use of an assistive voting device.

Canadians with disabilities also turn out at the polls. Michael Prince, in an article titled, “The Electoral Participation of Persons with Special Needs,” reports that “… in all likelihood, recent voter turnout among electors with disabilities shows a trend to higher voter turnout, from a much higher base than other electors….” Prince goes on to say that, “The limited data available show that compared to non-disabled electors, electors with disabilities had a higher voting rate in the 1997 federal election (90 percent vs. 82 percent of those sampled).”

In conclusion, CCD reminds all those running for office in the Federal Election: We are voters. We are people with disabilities.

For more information, please consult:

The Electoral Participation of Persons with Special Needs (2007) by Michael J. Prince http://elections.ca/res/rec/part/paper/special_needs/special_needs_e.pdf