Getting around in a wheelchair on a sidewalk has its challenges, a fact reinforced for Adam Tryhorne as the wheels of his wheelchair slipped off the pavement on Sherbrooke Street, nearly toppling him.
The challenges of navigating city streets in this way is one reason he and his partner Sandra Gualtieri are annoyed that they had to use their wheelchairs to get to their polling station, one kilometre from their apartment in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) district Monday, to vote in advance polling.
“If it was cold I wouldn’t have come,” stated Gualtieri outside the polling station after she cast her ballot.
The NDG couple, both of whom have cerebral palsy, wanted to take the Montreal transit authority’s adapted transport with an attendant to help them at the polling station.
Because of the company’s recent policy to prohibit companions on the transport, due to a driver shortage, the couple couldn’t. They walked with their attendant, homecare worker Shelby Johnson who helped them to vote.
“On the phone they said ‘If you really want to vote, take a taxi,'” Gualtieri said recalling her conversation with a transit company worker. “I asked ‘Will you reimburse me?’ Of course not.”
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The couple on limited income said they were able to manage this time, however they worry about others in wheelchairs who live further from a polling stations than they do, and who also need their attendant with them.
“Without a qualified attendant they’re going to be alone,” Tryhorn pointed out.
The transit authority said it is trying to find a solution but Linda Gauthier, president of Regroupement des activistes pour l’inclusion au Québec (RAPLIQ), an organization that advocates for the disabled, noted it’s too late for advance polling since it takes at least 24 hours to arrange transportation.
That leaves just election day, Oct. 3, for them to vote.
“The ones who were not able to vote today or yesterday, they won’t go,” said Gauthier.
According to Gauthier, most disabled people prefer to vote during advance polling, since all polling stations for those two days are accessible to voters with limited mobility.
But it’s a different story on election day.
“Some of (the stations) are not completely accessible,” she said, something which Elections Quebec confirms on its website . “There’s some little things so they don’t want to take any chances.”
She estimates up to half the people in this group won’t vote.
According to Elections Quebec it’s too late to register to vote at home and there isn’t enough time left to vote by mail. They say, however, if a voter with mobility challenges lives at a residence where a voting team visits election day, that voter can ask the team for a ballot to vote.