Elections Canada logo
Site menu

People with Disabilities

Research shows that people with disabilities face several barriers to registering and voting, working at, or running in an election.

Access-related barriers

  • Consultations with Elections Canada's Advisory Group for Disability Issues and key stakeholders from the disability community have indicated that many voters with disabilities want to vote independently whether by regular or special ballot, but they do not have the tools or supports do so (i.e. there is no appropriate technology for voters to verify their ballot; there are no photos of candidates or parties to assist people with intellectual and/or print disabilities through the voting process). The 2019 National Electors Study, commissioned by Elections Canada, found that electors with disabilities had a less positive voting experience than the general population.
  • According to the 2019 Voter Experience Report and members of Elections Canada's Advisory Group for Disability Issues, physical barriers and built-environment continue to pose barriers to some electors, such that electors struggle to find suitable accessible parking at the polling place, public transportation may not be readily available for electors, and it may be difficult for them to navigate through the polling station. As the severity of a disability increases, they are also less likely to find it easy to vote.
  • According to the 2019 Report on the Voter Information Campaign and Elector Awareness, electors with disabilities continue to experience barriers to finding information about the voting process. As a result, they are less likely to feel well informed about where, when and the ways to vote.
  • The Voter Experience Report indicates that electors with disabilities continue to be largely unaware of voting tools and methods that can make voting easier (such as availability of sign language interpreters, information in accessible formats, and other types of support). Only 50% of electors with a disability were aware of Elections Canada's accessibility voting tools and services.

Motivational barriers

  • Across age groups, people with disabilities report the same level of motivation to participate in elections as the general population. However, interest in politics tends to decrease among people with more severe disabilities.
  • Similarly, people with more severe disabilities tend to be less satisfied with the way democracy works in Canada, which could pose a barrier to participation.

People with Disabilities

European Commission. 2019. “Accessibility: Essential for Some, Useful for All.”

Mark A., et al. 2019. “Voting Characteristics of Individuals With Traumatic Brain Injury.” Forthcoming in World Medical and Health Policy.

Schur, Lisa and Douglas Kruse. 2019. “Fact Sheet: Disability and Voter Turnout in the 2016 Election.” Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. [USA]

Kelly, Brendan D. and Michael Nash. 2018. « Voter Participation Among People Attending Mental Health Services in Ireland. » Forthcoming from Irish Journal of Medical Science. [Abstract, Voilà]

Couture, Jérôme and Sandra Breux. 2017. « The Differentiated Effects of Health on Political Participation. » The Journal of Public Health 27, 4.

Langford, Brynne, and Mario Levesque. 2017. « Symbolic and Substantive Relevance of Politicians with Disabilities: A British Columbia Case Study. » Canadian Parliamentary Review 40, 2.

Levesque, Mario. 2017. « Vulnerable Populations and the Permanent Campaign: Disability Organization as Policy Entrepreneurs. » Permanent Campaigning in Canada. Edited by Alex Marland, Thierry Giasson, Anna Lennox Esselment. [Preview, Voilà]

McColl, Mary Ann, Atul Jaiswal and Lynn Roberts. 2017. « A Review of Federal Disability Policy in Canada. » 3rd ed. Canadian Disability Policy Alliance.

Spagnuolo, Natalie and Fady Shanouda. 2017. « Who Counts and Who is Counted? Conversations around Voting Access, and Divisions in the Disability Community. » Disability & Society 32, 5.

Levesque, Mario. 2016. « Searching for Persons with Disabilities in Canadian Provincial Office. » Canadian Journal of Disability Studies 5, 1.

van Hees, Suzanne G.M., Hennie R. Boeije and Iris de Putter. 2019. « Voting Barriers and Solutions: the Experiences of People With Disabilities During the Dutch National Election in 2017. » Forthcoming in Disability and Society. [Abstract, Voilà]

James, Elaine, Mark Harvey and Chris Hatton. 2018. « Participation of Adults With Learning Disabilities in the 2015 UK General Election. » [Abstract, Voilà]

Reher, Stefanie. 2018. « Mind This Gap, Too: Political Orientations of People with Disabilities in Europe. » Forthcoming in Political Behavior

Elections Canada. 2004. Electoral Insight –Persons with Disabilties and Elections