Accessibility at the 2023 Riigikogu 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 voting districts must be accessible to all voters, including the people with disabilities or special needs. This means that:
- there must be parking spaces close to the building;
- the route to the polling place must be free of obstacles and marked with signs;
- the building must be accessible by wheelchair and with a baby stroller.
If the building has no lift, the polling place must be on the same floor with the main entrance. The polling place must have enough space to move around with a wheelchair or a stroller. Sufficient lighting of the access route and the premises 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 14 January 2023 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. The list of the candidates on the wall of the booth helps the voter make their choice. 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 it. Then, the voter deposits the ballot paper in the ballot box on their own.
Special assistive devices are provided in the polling places to support people with special needs:
- a table with a screen that allows to complete a ballot paper tin a sitting position or in a wheelchair;
- a magnifying glass that is of help 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 mobility impairment to enter or exit the polling place, and 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 on their own and may not authorise anyone else to do it for them. If a voter is unable to complete the ballot paper on their own 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 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 the voting district committee of the voter’s residence.
Accessibility of i-voting and elections web page
There is support for the blind and the partially-sighted during i-voting. The elections web page complies with the W3C WAI guidelines and is compatible with JAWS screen reader. The voter application has a support for the use of JAWS screen reader. There are plans to introduce a similar support for macOS operations system.
The election web page conforms to WCAG standard recommendations. Visitors of the web page 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).