My vote counts. Make election polling voting centres wheelchair accessible.

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My name is Grant. I’m passionate about footy, democracy, and accessibility. Living with a Disability and chronic pain for 28 years has meant I've had my fair share of challenges to overcome in the search for access and equality. Thankfully, keeping fit by playing Wheelchair AFL and adaptive boxing helps me keep fit and develop somewhat unorthodox solutions to everyday problems.


In preparation for the last Victorian state election, I went looking for the closest fully accessible voting centre I could push my way too... the problem? There wasn't one. So I looked outside my district of Richmond, only to discover there wasn't one in the Melbourne electorate either. The closest listed was in Docklands: a 45 minute, 2 tram and 600 metre push away.


Now that the Federal Election has been called for May 18, I’m concerned that people with disabilities around Australia will face the same problem.


After a look at the polling locations around Australia, I discovered that the majority of voting centres are "assisted wheelchair access". This means that a person in a wheelchair, or other Disabled people with access requirements, couldn’t turn up to vote there and manage it without some form of support or assistance. Despite statements from the AEC in regards to scouting suitable locations, many are listed with the following disclaimer: “Detailed accessibility information is not available for this polling place at this time. You can search for your nearest alternative polling place via the AEC polling place locator


What is frustrating is “assisted wheelchair access" could mean all sorts of things:  they might have corridors too narrow to navigate independently, ramps built that may restrict access, or have paths from the car park or street to the building entrance that are inaccessible for wheelchair users, the list goes on.


From what I can see, there are more “not wheelchair accessible” locations than there are “wheelchair accessible” locations, that means approximately 15-20% of the population are unable to access a local voting centre.


That’s why I’m calling on the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) to change this severe oversight in the following ways:

 

> To ensure EVERY future electoral division includes at least 1 “wheelchair accessible” voting centre per electorate

 

> For local councils and the AEC to publicise and ensure accessible centres are promoted and included in all communications so that every vote counts.

 

People with Disabilities have a place in our democratic process. We want to fully participate in democracy without any barriers. We want to turn up to a nearby polling booth on election day, grab a democracy sausage, and vote just like everyone else.

 

Can you help me send a message before the federal election on May 18? Please sign and share this petition, and let the Australian Electoral Commission know that People with Disabilities have a place in our democratic process.


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