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Onley Champions Accessibility as Term Ends

By The Canadian Press on September 15, 2014

TORONTO – There is an “airtight business case” for hiring people with disabilities, Ontario’s outgoing lieutenant-governor said Monday in his last major speech.

David Onley, who uses a motorized scooter after having polio as a child, used his term to champion accessibility issues. When he was installed in 2007, Onley defined accessibility as “that which enables people to achieve their full potential.”

Accessibility is more than the wheelchair curb cuts, parking spots, automatic doors and “the ubiquitous wheelchair symbol,” Onley said in a speech Monday at the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

Onley, whose term ends next week, said a group of businesses that have policies of hiring people with disabilities will be announced this week and the organization will help companies access the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.

It will include companies who hire a percentage of people with disabilities that reflects the number in the general population, which is about 15 per cent, he said. Onley will be the honorary patron of the organization called Canadian Business SenseAbility, he said.

Onley said accessibility is ultimately about good business practices.

“There is an airtight business case to do what is counterintuitive and that is to hire people with disabilities for one and only one reason and it’s not because of some touchy feely notion of social responsibility, although there is a degree of social responsibility,” he said.

“The only reason is for cold, calculating business reasons: to increase productivity and to increase your profits.”

Onley also announced a new annual award to recognize people and organizations who demonstrate leadership in accessibility and disability issues.

This is a “watershed” time for accessibility, he said, as it’s near the midpoint of the 20-year implementation period of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and while a “great deal” has been achieved, there is a long way to go to build full accessibility by 2025.

Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid also spoke to the Board of Trade and said after his speech that becoming more accessible could lead to a $7.9 billion impact on the economy.

“That’s opening up new markets to customers, but just as importantly opening up our business to people with disabilities so that they can fully contribute the skills and talent that they have,” Duguid said. “There’s a really good business case to do this.”

Onley was one of Canada’s first visibly disabled newscasters and was a prominent face on television as a science and technology specialist and weatherman.

The incoming lieutenant-governor, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, a former undersecretary general of the United Nations with a long public service record, will be sworn in Sept. 23.

Reproduced from