Human #rights tribunal orders improvements to #Toronto #polling stations

By KEVIN CONNOR, Toronto Sun
Last Updated: 12th February 2010, 7:10pm

Polio sufferer Peter Hughes is happy that disabled people no longer will be humiliated when they vote at polling stations.

In March 2008, Hughes went to vote in a federal byelection in Toronto Centre — when Bob Rae was elected — only to find the polling station was in a church
basement and not accessible to disabled people.

Determined to vote, he crawled down the stairs on the seat of his pants.

When he had to face the same stairs in the general election of October 2008 he complained to Elections Canada officials who “dismissively said it was not their problem,” Hughes’ lawyer said.

Hughes took his case to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and on Friday it ruled in his favour by ordering nationwide improvements to be made by Elections Canada for accessibility to polling stations for the disabled.

“It is disappointing that in the disability rights/accessibility heightened time in which we find ourselves living as we enter the second decade of the
21st century, that Mr. Hughes would have had to experience the humiliation and indignities of those two voting events, followed by the tardy investigation, inaccurate conclusions and poor handling of his verbal and written complaints,” the tribunal wrote.

The tribunal also ordered Elections Canada to create a new complaints procedure and training in regards to disability issues.

“I feel great. They gave all the things we asked for. There will be a lot of changes to the election process for handicapped people,” said Hughes, a retired
reverend.

“It was a humiliating experience, especially since they (send) voting information that has a little blue symbol on it that says the polling station is wheelchair accessible.”

Hopefully the decision will also be extended to provincial elections and not just federal elections, said Hughes lawyer, Kate Hughes.

“We are thrilled with the decision and we are hoping it will influence provincial polling stations because there are problems there as well,” she said.

kevin.connor@sunmedia.ca

Reproduced from http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2010/02/12/12861591.html

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