David Onley: Changing the Culture of Accessibility

David Onley

I recently had the privilege to speak to former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, David C. Onley, who held the post from 2007 to 2014.  He was diagnosed with polio when he was younger, making him the first Lieutenant Governor with a physical disability.

Official photo of the Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario

His mandate during his tenure was accessibility, where he defined it as, “that which enables people to achieve their full potential”, and believes that true accessibility occurs when people with disabilities can fully participate in the social, cultural, and economic life of Ontario.

When asked, what did it mean to him to have been selected as the 28th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, he said,

“It was the most major moment in my life outside of marrying my wife and the birth of our three children. In terms of career, it was the biggest development, but I knew it was both a real challenge and opportunity. I just didn’t want to have the position just for the sake of having the position, I wanted to change the dialogue of disability and I believe I have a significant role in doing just that.”

David Onley is currently the special advisor in accessibility to Brad DuguidMinister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, where he continues to help to advise and advocate on the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). He hopes to be able to accelerate the process, especially culturally through different speaking engagements, and appearances on television.

David Onley has many accomplishments in his life from hosting a television show on CP24 and writing a book. So I asked the question of what enables him?

“I know that there’s a certain amount of support from my family from the very beginning and that a certain amount of it was my own personal Christian faith in terms of appreciating [that] bad things do happen to good people. But there are greater purposes in life, where disability can be overcome to a real extent and I know that a large part of my faith has sustained me emotionally and psychologically, not that I don’t have good days and bad days. Everyone does.”

What is his call to action?

“I would say everyone needs to do what they can, in promoting a better understanding of people with disabilities. People with disabilities are capable of being good employees and we need the same opportunity as able-bodied people. It’s going to take all sorts of people advocating in order to make change.”

Check out this segment of David Onley on the Rick Mercer Report:

Power Hockey Athlete with TPWHL, Passionate Sports Writer, Huge supporter of the Paralympics and para sports, Accessibility Ambassador, Co-Founder of Equal Grounds.


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