NSWEC Action Plan 2014-16: Equal Access to Democracy

Issue date: October 2014

Electoral Commissioner's Foreword

I am pleased to present the New South Wales Electoral Commission'sEqual Access to Democracy Action Plan 2014-2016.

The NSW Electoral Commission acknowledges that people with disability comprise a significant proportion of the population and are often disadvantaged in accessing electoral services.

Participation in a democracy cannot be limited to those who either have the knowledge or physical ability to access the electoral process. Sections of the community who are less likely to participate in elections include people who have difficulty with physical access to facilities and accessing information about the electoral process.

Since 2007 the NSWEC has partnered with a range of peak bodies representing the interests of people with disabilities to improve electoral facilities. Representatives of these organisations form the Equal Access to Democracy Reference Group.

This Equal Access to Democracy Action Plan identifies key issues that currently impact on access to and participation in the democratic process for people with disability, and outlines important initiatives to provide more choices at the 2015 State Election.

The Plan is intended to be a living document and will be reviewed after the March 2015 State Election to examine what further improvements can be made.

I look forward to an ongoing consultative partnership with our Equal Access to Democracy Reference Group working together to promote participation and improve access and equity to the electoral system in New South Wales.

Colin Barry
Electoral Commissioner

Introduction

The aim of this Equal Access to Democracy Action Plan is to identify and, remove barriers to participation in elections by people with disabilities.

Policy Statement

The New South Wales Electoral Commission (NSWEC) tries to deliver its services by adopting inclusive practices and by working to remove barriers that people with disability experience in accessing electoral services.

What is the role of the NSWEC?

The NSWEC's role is to provide high quality election services that are impartial, effective, efficient and in accordance with the law.

The NSWEC is responsible for:

  • Conducting elections for the Parliament of NSW and elections for local councils in NSW.
  • Conducting elections for registered clubs, statutory boards and State registered industrial organisations.
  • Working with the Australian Electoral Commission in the management of the joint electoral roll in NSW.
  • Providing administrative support to the Election Funding Authority.

The NSWEC recognises the diversity of the New South Wales community and the demand for high quality electoral services to meet a wide range of needs, expectations and levels of understanding of the democratic system.

The NSWEC's Future Directions Plan 2013-2016 outlines our commitment to fostering participation in the democratic process. This includes championing the importance of democracy through public education, improved processes, responsive services and clear communication.

This includes continuing to work with the equal access to democracy disability reference group.

The following organisations are currently represented on the reference group.

  • Aboriginal Disability Network New South Wales
  • Blind Citizens Australia
  • Brain Injury Association NSW
  • Carers NSW
  • Council of Social services of NSW
  • Deaf Society of NSW
  • Deafness Forum Australia
  • Mental Health Association NSW Inc.
  • Mental Health Coordinating Council
  • Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association of NSW
  • National Ethnic Disability Alliance
  • NSW Council for Intellectual Disability
  • NSW Disability Discrimination Legal Centre
  • People with Disability Australia Inc.
  • Physical Disability Australia
  • Physical Disability Council NSW
  • Self Help for Hard of Hearing People
  • Vision Australia

Planning and Evaluation

Goal 1: Disability Action Plan goals are integrated into overall corporate and business planning and review mechanisms.

STRATEGIES

  1. Develop an Equal Access to Democracy Disability Action Plan 2014-2016 with specific and achievable strategies.
  2. NSWEC corporate planning, policy and review documents recognise the need for the agency to deliver appropriate services for electors with disability and their carers.
  3. Increase the integration of community education, information and resources for electors with disability and their carers into election operations planning and arrangements.
  4. Ensure community education, information and resources for electors with disability and their carers can be contextualised to a variety of situations including guided discussions, group work and/or supported decision making models.

Goal 2: Policy development and service delivery is informed by research, evaluation and community consultation.

STRATEGIES

  1. Maintain regular consultation with the NSWEC Equal Access to Democracy Disability Reference Group on the development and review of the Action Plan and other issues affecting electors with disability and their carers as required.
  2. Research and review what other electoral bodies are doing in regard to provision of information and services for electors with disability and their carers.
  3. Encourage electors with disability and carers to provide feedback to the NSWEC on the quality of electoral information and services through the Reference Group and other feedback mechanisms.
  4. The election experiences of electors with disability and their carers are collected and considered through post-election surveys conducted by the NSWEC and/or disability and carer organisations.
  5. The Equal Access to Democracy Disability Action Plan is reviewed and revised after each election cycle by key stakeholders including people with disability and their carers.

Goal 3: Continue to explore opportunities to expand voting options for electors with disability.

STRATEGIES

  1. Seek legislative amendments to expand voting options for electors with disability at all elections.
  2. Continue to monitor the electoral environment for opportunities to further improve voting options for electors with disability.
  3. Continue to foster appropriate voting methods that provide the suitable means of casting an independent and secret vote, including iVote® for electors with a disability.

Planning and Evaluation

Goal 4: Continue to explore opportunities to expand voting options for electors who are carers of people with disability.

STRATEGIES

  1. Seek legislative amendments to expand voting options for electors who are carers at all elections.
  2. Continue to monitor the electoral environment for opportunities to further improve voting options for electors who are carers.
  3. Continue to foster appropriate voting methods that provide the suitable means of casting an independent and secret vote for carers of people with disability.

Capacity Building

Goal 5: The capacity of the agency is enhanced by employing people with disability and their carers and enabling election staff to provide assistance that promotes equal access and participation with dignity.

STRATEGIES

  1. Encourage and facilitate opportunities for people with disability and their carers to apply to work for the NSWEC and at the elections.
  2. Ensure NSWEC reception and Elector Enquiry Centre staff are trained in the use of the National Relay Service.
  3. Provide disability education to all election staff to ensure they are aware of the specific and varied needs of electors with disability.
  4. Ensure the document 'Guidelines to Providing Services to People with Disabilities' is referred to in all operational manuals and available to all election staff.
  5. Ensure election staff are aware of equipment, facilities and information available for electors with disability so they can readily be made available to people requiring them.
  6. Provide the Elector Enquiry Centre with all necessary information to respond to enquiries from electors with disability, particularly in relation to voting options, accessible information and accessibility of polling places.

Programs & Services

Goal 6: Barriers to the accessibility of electoral information process for people with disability are identified and addressed.

STRATEGIES

  1. Develop relevant and accessible electoral information for electors with disability including enrolment information.
  2. Ensure that all enrolment information is presented in a variety of formats including audio, AUSLAN, large print, rich text format (RTF), captioning, voiceover and Easy Read.
  3. Ensure language, photographs and graphics are sensitive, appropriate, inclusive in all NSWEC publications and on the website.
  4. Ensure that all electoral information is easy to understand, written in plain English and available in hard copy upon request.
  5. Review the design, navigation and content on the NSWEC website to ensure compliance with appropriate government accessibility standards, including the on-line completion and submission of forms relating to enrolment.
  6. Make available the NSWEC Community Education Officer to present information sessions addressing enrolment and election processes for clients of disability service providers or to provide 'train the trainer' sessions for workers in those services.
  7. Develop and distribute an information kit, in collaboration with the NSWEC Equal Access to Democracy Disability Reference Group, to provide Registered Political Parties and candidates with information about the importance of providing accessible voting information to electors with disability and their carers in an appropriate and timely manner to enable their participation in the democratic process.

Programs & Services

Goal 7: Barriers to the accessibility of voting services for people with disability and their carers are identified and addressed.

STRATEGIES

  1. Assess the accessibility of venues that could be used as voting centres and select those complying with accessibility standards.
  2. Ensure accessible voting centres and the level of accessibility is clearly identified on the NSWEC website for all Returning Officers' offices, pre-poll venues and polling places.
  3. Provide accessible voting screens at all polling places for people with mobility issues.
  4. Ensure all election staff receive instruction on the layout of polling places to maximise accessibility of entry and exit paths.
  5. Ensure managers of fully wheelchair accessible voting centres are aware of the accessibility status of their venue and how to maximise and ensure that accessibility.
  6. Use luminous contrast graphic design on cardboard furniture, such as voting screens and ballot boxes, to assist electors with depth perception.
  7. Provide hand-held magnifiers, Maxi-pens and large print information at all polling places.
  8. Ensure signage and posters at polling places use large print, simple font, good contrast, pictograms and images to make them easier to read.
  9. Encourage the use of disability and carer service provider premises and the employment of staff from those services for both pre-poll and Election Day voting.
  10. Continue to offer and publicise the availability of iVote® and postal voting for electors with disability and their carers who would prefer to vote by post, internet or telephone.
  11. Ensure all voting options available to electors with disability and their carers are publicised through disability and carer organisations, the media, social media, in NSWEC advertising and on the NSWEC website.

Goal 8: A range of communication formats and channels are used to inform people with disability about enrolment, elections and voting.

STRATEGIES

  1. Ensure a variety of accessible enrolment and election information is made available through the NSWEC website and distribution to disability and carer organisations in a timely manner.
  2. Improve prominence on the NSWEC website of information for people with disability and their carers.
  3. Ensure people with disability and their carers and disability and carer organisations are made aware of the accessible information and services that are available from NSWEC.
  4. Ensure the NSWEC election advertising campaign strategy and associated images are inclusive and appropriate for reaching electors with a disability and their carers.
  5. Provide timely and appropriate election information to disability and carer organisations and people with disability and their carers through electronic election newsletter distribution.