The Accessibility of Elections to Canadians with Cognitive Disabilities
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It is enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that all Canadian citizens are guaranteed the right to vote. This research paper explores whether persons with cognitive disabilities are able to exercise this right based on the accessibility provisions provided for in Canadian electoral law. A mixed methodology approach was used to investigate this topic, where qualitative interviews with persons with cognitive disabilities from countries and regions with similar social and policy contexts to Canada’s were used to identify facilitators and barriers to voting. Canada’s 14 different electoral acts were ranked based on the number of accessibility provisions they possessed that could facilitate voting. Ontario was identified as the jurisdiction with the most provisions that could facilitate voting in persons with cognitive disabilities. Trends in the secondary sourced data also revealed that a lack of electoral knowledge and a lack of social support were the most significant barriers to voting for persons with cognitive disabilities. A supportive social network was unanimously identified in the secondary data as a significant facilitator to voting. In fact, it was identified in the secondary data sources that persons with cognitive disabilities that did not have a supportive social network were unable to use the existing accessibility provisions in their region. This finding represents the limitations of Canada’s current accessibility provisions in their ability to facilitate voting for persons with cognitive disabilities. None of Canada’s provisions mandate that social service workers or election officials ensure that persons with cognitive disabilities receive the support they need to understand the electoral process prior to election day. This research paper makes the recommendation that such policy provisions are implemented in Canadian electoral law in order to increase the accessibility of elections to Canadians with cognitive disabilities.