For eighteen years, since my brain injury, I’ve not voted on my own on Election Day. I’ve had to beg for rides, used special ballots (that was a weird experience), forced to decide who to vote for ahead of time and before I was ready because my poll is far enough away to not be accessible. I couldn’t even find it for the longest time because of my navigational and memory challenges.
Accessibility isn’t just a wheelchair ramp. It’s also how close it is. How easy to find.
When I came of voting age, we could vote in our neighbour’s house. Now we have to schlep to schools and churches and apartment buildings. People with disabilities don’t want to ask for help to vote. They want to be able to do it on their own, when they want. Inclusive design means ensuring independence.
But this shrinking of polls reflects a change in how much we take our democracy for granted. We complain about our politicians but fewer and fewer want to contribute to making the electoral process possible. And fewer and fewer want to vote. City election turnouts are particularly perplexing because wherever you are, whatever stage in life, the decisions of politicians and the city affect you. When you don’t vote and you stay silent when new Premier Doug Ford undermines the election, you have no say in your own life.
You have no say in your commute.
You have no say in ensuring your sewer doesn’t back up.
You have no say when community cops disappear from the streets.
You have no say in whether your road is repaved or not.
You have no say in creating a better park near you.
You have no say in affording where you live.
And you particularly have no say in having the city comply with accessibility laws and ensuring inclusive design in all developments and infrastructure.
When you vote, you learn who your representative is, which means when you have a problem, you know who to reach out to. And you will have a problem only a city politician can fix because calls to 311 may not be enough. Constituency work is the heart of good City Councillors.
Did you vote?