Today, Ontario is electing a new Premier. I’m curious as to how Ontario agencies who support people with intellectual disabilities have assisted the people they support to prepare for voting. I’ve never worked with any people with intellectual disabilities in my career who have been interested in voting in an election, so I’ve never had to go through that process. But I know that people with intellectual disabilities certainly do vote in elections. And why shouldn’t they?
Issues Affecting People with Intellectual Disabilities
The provincial governments administer income support for people who have disabilities that prevent them from working. In Ontario, this program is called the Ontario Disability Support Program, and it also covers medical, dental and eyewear costs. Most people with intellectual disabilities receive at least some support from this program, or have found work to supplement their income support with the help of the ODSP Employment Supports Program. They deserve to know which party is willing commit resources to keeping ODSP income support at its present level (which is only enough to keep people living at a poverty level) and who is committed to raising it. It’s important that the people affected by the issues vote and get their voices heard.
Every Canadian Over 18 Can Vote in an Election
I understand that the concept of an election might be difficult for some people with intellectual disabilities to understand. I’ve tried to explain to people I’ve supported why they should pay their taxes, and that was difficult enough. There’s much more to an election than, “We pay taxes so that the government has money to run our schools and post offices and to pay our doctors to take care of us when we’re sick” (there was more to the conversation than that, but that was the gist). And the thing about taking large amounts of time to prepare people for things like voting in elections is that front-line workers really have too much to do already. Their days are pretty packed.
However, every Canadian over 18, whether or not they’re living with disabilities and regardless of how well they grasp the issues involved, is entitled to vote if they want to. The politicians don’t care if a vote is well-informed or if someone votes because they like the sound of the person’s name; a vote’s a vote. So if a person with intellectual disabilities wants to vote and has had no education about elections at all, we really can’t, as support people, stop them in good conscience. They wouldn’t be the first to go into the voting booth not knowing a thing about any of the names and what they stand for; they won’t be the last.
It would just be much nicer if they had some preparation, some awareness, before going in, to the extent that agencies can manage. For those people supported that indicate prior interest, it’s the right thing to do.
Good luck to all the candidates.