Videojournalist CTV News Saskatoon
Published Tuesday, September 21, 2021
SASKATOON — Voting is a right every adult Canadian citizen has, but one Saskatoon man says his polling station wasn’t set up for him to enter in his wheelchair despite being led to believe it was accessible.
“The voter card said this site meets all 15 accessibility criteria for Roland Michener School,” Sikorski told CTV News.
The Elections Canada website outlines the criteria, which includes level access to the entrance.
However, when Sikorski arrived to vote on Monday, he quickly realized he couldn’t get into the school gym door because the threshold was about seven centimetres high.
“Once I noticed it, I realized it was going to be no good for me to get in,” he said.
Sikorski says he was embarrassed as there was a lineup of people behind him and as someone who only began using a wheelchair in December, he’s only now starting to get out in after a brain aneurism left him paralyzed from the armpits down.
In an emailed statement, Elections Canada regional media advisor, Marie France-Kenny said she couldn’t comment on the specific polling station.
However, she said the agency’s returning officers “made every effort to choose polling locations that meet Elections Canada’s 15 mandatory accessibility criteria.”
France-Kenny said changes required due to the COVID-19 pandemic have meant many locations used in the past were not available and returning officers needed to find bigger polling locations to allow for physical distancing.
“This means that polling places were sometimes in unusual locations or further from electors’ homes and may not have met all our accessibility criteria,” France-Kenny said.
Sikorski doesn’t accept the explanation and says this particular school was his usual polling station in previous elections and is the usual location for voting in the neighbourhood where he’s lived for 14 years.
Sikorski says once the elections staff realized he couldn’t get into the gym where the polling was, they told him this accessibility concern was known to them.
“They said that they had identified it a week ago and no one did anything about it,” he said.
Sikorski did eventually get to vote, but he had to be escorted to the front doors of the school by his nurse and elections staff where there was a little ramp that he could get up, but then he was met by school staff.
“They didn’t necessarily want to let me in because of COVID and I said I was a parent and they let me in finally and I went through the entire school to get to the gym,” Sikorski said.
According to Elections Canada for the 2021 federal election, over 97 per cent of polling places meet its mandatory accessibility criteria or have level access. The same was true in 2019.
Sikorski is frustrated with the fact that despite the known issue, the site was still listed as accessible.
He wants to bring awareness to the issue so that others don’t have to experience the same situation when heading to vote and he hopes to have the issue addressed for the next election.
He said he expecting a call from Elections Canada to hear his concern.
Elections Canada provides a link on its website for voters to submit feedback about accessibility issues at polls.
The agency encourages electors to provide feedback on accessibility to help improve its services.