Voting should not be this difficult for PWD

Last Friday, I was able to vote in the municipal election, and I was thrilled to be able to. The other good thing was that I didn’t need to use Para Transpo.

In my last article, I discussed some challenges that Para Transpo users face regarding getting to the polling station and going home or elsewhere afterward.

When it comes to voting, ALL barriers NEED to be removed. If election officials and candidates want a good turnout, it would be in their best interest to make all public transportation free. For people that aren’t able to travel, voting from home or in a hospital should ALWAYS be an option.

No ifs, and, or buts about it.

Getting to the polling station was difficult. When I woke up on Friday, the weather was cold and damp. I don’t do well in the cold, for those just tuning in. So, I doubted I’d be able to roll the five or six blocks to the polling station.

I will share with you the process of what I needed to do so that I could vote in an October election. Please remember that I’m not looking for sympathy or to have people tell me I’m inspirational. I’m simply sharing this for educational purposes, which hopefully leads to changes being made.

As I mentioned, the weather was cold and damp when I woke up on Friday. In my mind, I was determined to vote that day. When I was getting dressed, I asked my PSW to put a long-sleeved sweater on me.

Now, most of the time that I wear something with long sleeves, I have a hard time operating my chair. The reason is either the sleeves are too heavy or the sweater’s too bulky. I have a much harder time moving my hands to my chair controls. If I’m going out somewhere, it becomes even more challenging due to the bumpiness of our roads and sidewalks.

This is another reason why Ottawa NEEDS more bike lanes.

Anyways, so I got up in my chair on Friday. Because I had a sweater on, I needed to be repositioned more, which can be very painful. After that, I went to my living room to have breakfast and coffee and do all my usual morning rituals.

A few hours later, I look outside and think that weather-wise, it’s as good as it’s gonna get, so I decide to go. One thing you should all know is that I’m very stubborn. Once I decide that I want to do something, I will do it.

Shortly after 1:30 pm, my PSW and I left my building to go to the polling station. My destination was the Bethell Field House. I can easily get there in about ten or fifteen minutes during the summer months. On Friday, it took about twenty minutes.

Another reason was that a kind stranger informed us that the front gate was locked when we arrived at the park. That meant I had to go to one of the side entrances, which also meant I had to keep rolling on an even bumpier sidewalk on Frank Street.

When I arrived at the polling station, my hands were freezing, and I was in pain.

Thankfully, the voting process was easy. I gave them my name and address, and they gave me my ballot. My PSW and I went behind the partition, told them where to mark, and rolled toward the machine to get my ballot scanned.

And, of course, I wanted a voting sticker.

Now, I should mention that it can be a complicated process when I vote because one of my PSW is assisting me with voting. There have been times when my PSW had to either sign a form, take an oath, or answer questions. While I understand the reasons for that, it’s just adding another barrier to an already flawed system, at least for people with disabilities.

In an ideal world, all PWD should be able to vote as privately and as safely as able-bodied people.

Another thing that I should mention is that I didn’t ask if the location had adaptive technology set up so that PWD could use them to vote. Honestly, I just wanted to vote and return to my warm apartment. Also, I cannot use their adaptive devices based on previous elections.

After I voted, I made my way home and thawed out. Once I warmed up, I was able to take my sweater off and feel good that I was able to vote.

On Friday, I posted on social media that if I can do it, so can you.

Get out and vote, Ottawa.