Wheelchair users storm city hall, demand access to voting booths
Published Tuesday, September 17, 2013 8:53AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 17, 2013 8:54AM EDT
People who use wheelchairs are demanding the city of Montreal respect their right to vote on election day.
About 40 people stormed into a city council meeting on Monday to demand the city make sure they are able to vote.
Linda Gauthier was one of the protesters who says that voting in municipal elections is often difficulty.
"They say they took all the measures for people with disability. You can vote at home, you can vote on the web if you want, but I like to go to vote there. There's a special something when you go to vote," said Gauthier.
She said many polling stations are not accessible and even if they have been adapted they might not be as safe and secure as they should be.
"We went on the moon. I think they could build ramps," said Gauthier.
Gauthier, who is the president of the Regroupement des activistes pour l'inclusion au Quebec (RAPLIQ), has become a strong advocate for accessibility because when she last tried to vote in a municipal election she went to what was supposed to be an accessible polling station.
When she arrived she discovered a 10-cm step which was impossible for her wheelchair to mount.
"I asked for accommodation, I asked them to bring a desk outside, they didn't want to do that," said Gauthier.
She filed a complaint with Quebec's Human Rights Commission and won.
Human rights advocate Fo Niemi said it was a significant decision.
"It's a very important decision that the Human Rights Commission handed down requiring the city of Montreal and the provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs to change the law and to ensure that people with disabilities, limited mobility have equal access to voting booths on voting days," said Niemi.
Gauthier points out she pays the same taxes as everyone else, and has the same rights and responsibilities, including voting.
"I think that it's very important that the city of Montreal live up to it's legal as well as moral obligation," said Gauthier.