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Accessibility at the 2021 local government council elections

Accessibility means that everyone, regardless of their health condition or special needs, has an equally comfortable access to a service or an event. The right to participate in elections is one of the fundamental rights in a democracy. This right must be guaranteed to every person with the right to vote.

In 2012, Estonia joined the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which means that we have assumed an international obligation to ensure accessibility to people with disabilities.

 

Accessibility of polling places

The polling places in a voting district must be accessible to all the voters, including the people with special needs or disabilities. This means that:

  • there must be parking spaces close to the building;
  • the path to the polling place must be free of obstacles and marked with signs; 
  • the building must be accessible with a wheelchair or a baby stroller.

If the building has no lift, the polling place must be on the same floor as the main entrance. The polling place must have enough space to move around with a wheelchair or a stroller. Uncluttered path and sufficient lighting must be ensured. If the doors of the building do not open automatically, the voters must be ensured assistance in entering the building.

Rural municipality and city governments must decide the location of the polling places by 28 August 2021 at the latest. Information on the location of polling places and their accessibility can be found in the map application. 

Accessibility of tools and procedures

In the polling place, the voter has to present their identity document and fill in a ballot paper. The ballot papers are completed in a voting booth. To facilitate decision making, there is a list of the candidates on the wall of the booth. After completing the ballot paper, the voter folds the ballot paper and hands it to a member of the voting district committee who puts an impression of a seal on the ballot paper. Finally, the voter deposits the ballot paper in the ballot box themselves.

Special features are set up in the polling places to assist people with special needs:

  • A table with a screen that allows a ballot paper to be completed in a sitting position or in a wheelchair;
  • A magnifying glass that is helpful in completing the ballot paper and reading the list of candidates;
  • Access to remote sign language interpretation, which allows voters who speak the sign language to communicate more easily with the members of the district committee.

The members of the district committee must always be willing to help voters with visual or movement impairment to enter or exit the polling place, or carry out voting procedures. In this, the members of the voting district committee can follow the accessibility guidelines approved by the State Electoral Office. 

Each voter votes for themselves and may not authorise anyone else to do it for them. If a voter is unable to complete the ballot paper themselves due to a physical disability, another voter, but not a candidate, may do so at their request and in their presence.

If a voter is unable to vote at a polling place of a voting district due to their state of health or for another good reason, they may apply to vote at home. An application to vote at home must be addressed to the rural municipality or city council or voting district committee of the voter’s residence.

Accessibility of i-voting and elections web page

There is support for the blind and the visually impaired during i-voting. The election web page respects the W3C WAI guidelines and is compatible with JAWS screen reader. The voter application is supported for the use of JAWS screen reader. There are plans to introduce a similar support for macOS and Linux operations systems.

The election web page conforms to WCAG standard recommendations. In addition, visitors can also change the contrast and the font size under the Accessibility option on top of the page. Users can also change the size of the whole page from the browser settings. This is usually done from the options with percentages or plus and minus signs (zoom).