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Canada rights tribunal rules polling places must be accessible to disabled voters

[JURIST] The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) [official website] on Friday ordered [decision, PDF] Elections Canada (EC) [official website] to comply with the Canadian Human Rights Act [materials] by ensuring that polling facilities are accessible to voters with disabilities. The CHRT ruled that in failing to provide accessible facilities for voters with disabilities, the EC "engaged in a discriminatory practice within the meaning of section 5 of the CHRA, [finding] the Complaint of James Peter Hughes is substantiated." The EC will also have to overhaul its policies and conduct training for Returning Officers and officials under their supervision concerning "disability and accessibility issues" as well as implement new procedures for addressing voter complaints on the subject in consultation with the Canadian Human Rights Commission [official website] and disabilities advocacy organizations and voters with disabilities. The Tribunal will continue to monitor the EC's progress on the order. The EC will also have to pay damages to Hughes for the discrimination he suffered. The Council of Canadians With Disabilities (CCD) [advocacy website] intervened as an interested party advocating [affidavit text] for Hughes's position.

Since 1992, amendments [EC backgrounder] to the Canada Elections Act [text] have resulted in improvements in access to polls for persons with disabilities. In the US, the General Accounting Office found [report] in June 2009 that access to polling sites for voters with disabilities after the Help America Vote Act of 2002 [text] has improved in comparison to year 2000 conditions from 16 percent to a current estimated 27 percent impediment-free facilities, but much progress is still needed. An estimated 45 percent of polling facilities that have potential impediments offer curbside voting to help voter with disabilities.

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