TORONTO -- The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is calling on the government to do more for blind Canadians, pointing out that the Special Ballot to vote by mail is useless to blind voters unless they gain aid from a sighted person, impeding their right to vote in secret.

In a press release Friday, the organization said it was time to fix the discrimination that leaves out these voters, saying they expected more since this election follows the passage of the Accessible Canada Act, which aiming to introduce more legislation to aid those with disabilities.

“Due to the pandemic, there are voters who want to vote by mail,” the release stated. “For blind voters, for whom print is a barrier, the mail-in Special Ballot, which is a printed paper ballot, is proving problematic.”

Since ballots need to be filled out exactly in order to be counted, a blind voter would need the assistance of a sighted person to verify that they had filled out the ballot correctly.

“The inaccessible Special Ballot robs blind voters of the right to vote in secret, which is a key principle of democracy,” the release states.

The release added that the requirement to upload scanned identification to register for mail-in ballots online also requires a blind voter to seek help from a sighted person, and that there is no information about candidates in Braille at advance polls.

“We have been hearing that the mail-in ballot process is not one that can be negotiated independently by all blind voters,” Heather Walkus, CCD 1st vice chair, stated in the release. “As this election follows the passage of the Accessible Canada Act, which promised no new barriers, this is all very disappointing. Blind voters were expecting to finally exercise their franchise in secret this election the same as other voters.”

Elections Canada said in an email statement to that they are “committed to responding to the diverse needs of Canadians.”

They said that among the accessibility services they offer, they have sign language interpretation and have redesigned the ballot to improve readability for people who use screen readers.

Elections Canada added that they have a number of tools and services for voting in person, such as large-print candidates lists on advance polling and election days, and Braille lists of candidates on election day. There are also Braille voting templates available on advance polling and election days, they stated.

“We recognize that the special ballot process is not ideal for electors who are unable to mark their own ballot,” the statement continued. “Instead of voting by mail, electors who need help marking their ballot may contact their local Elections Canada office to make an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer, who will complete their registration and mark their ballot on their behalf.”

This does not address the issue of voters being entitled to a secret voting process, CCD pointed out. The CCD release stated that they have been calling for other methods to vote for years, such as adding the ability to vote through accessible voting machines and electronic voting.

“We are not seeking an end to the paper ballot, but the addition of accessible voting options so that all voters can exercise their franchise independently and in secret,” Walkus said.

The Accessible Canada Act, which came into effect in 2019, was intended to eliminate barriers and provide greater opportunities for disabled Canadians. It did not specifically include promises for making the voting process more accessible.