'Appalling': Whitehorse man calls out city for inaccessible polling station

·2 min read
Ramesh Ferris, left, was frustrated to find a flight of stairs to negotiate when he went to vote in Whitehorse's city election. He found a woman with a stroller, also having a hard time. Ferris said the city should do better to ensure all polling places are accessible. (Submitted by Ramesh Ferris - image credit)
Ramesh Ferris, left, was frustrated to find a flight of stairs to negotiate when he went to vote in Whitehorse's city election. He found a woman with a stroller, also having a hard time. Ferris said the city should do better to ensure all polling places are accessible. (Submitted by Ramesh Ferris - image credit)

Ramesh Ferris said he hit a "tipping point" of frustration on Thursday, when he had trouble trying to vote in the Whitehorse city election.

"It's very emotionally draining, it's exhausting and it's disheartening," Ferris said, referring a polling station that was not easily accessible for people with mobility issues.

Ferris, a polio survivor, uses crutches to walk.

He and his wife went to the polling station at Porter Creek Secondary School on Thursday. They arrived to find a woman pushing her kids in a stroller and trying to figure out how she'd get up the stairs to the door.

"I got out of my truck and said, 'this is ridiculous. This is the main entrance.' And she goes, 'I know, I've been trying to look for an accessible entrance. I can't find anything,'" Ferris recalled.

Ferris's wife was able to help the woman with her stroller, and Ferris also managed to get inside to vote. But he can't understand why it had to be difficult.

"No one took responsibility. No one said, 'I'm sorry.' And it was quite appalling, actually," he said.

"I was upset not only for myself, but also for, you know, this young woman that was pushing her kids in the stroller, for our First Nations elders, seniors and other people with disabilities."

He said poll workers then put a sign outside on a pylon. It had a phone number for people to call if they have mobility issues and needed help.

Ramesh Ferris
Ramesh Ferris

Ferris doesn't think that was good enough, and he wonders if anybody was kept from voting because of poor accessibility. The city had about half the number of polling stations that it had during the last municipal election, in 2018.

A city spokesperson said that staff would look into the issue, including what the requirements are for city polling stations. He said the city is aware of Ferris's concern, and is sympathetic.

Ferris wrote about his experience on social media, and was heartened to see how many other people shared his frustration. But he said it's up to the city to do better.

"You know, it's not just liking a photo on Facebook or making a comment. It's taking it to the next level, so there's actually meaningful change so that people with disabilities don't have to be exhausted living their daily lives," Ferris said.

"They [the city] know what the issues are. They know how to fix them. And so I am curious to know how they're going to respond. And I'm happy to meet with them."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting