October 1, 2019 - Rethinking Normalcy to Achieve Equality for Disabled Persons

David Onley, Guest Lecturer and Distinguished Visitor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto Scarborough; Former Lieutenant Governor of OntarioAbstract: Despite decades of diligent advocacy, despite the inclusion of accessibility as a protected provision under the Charter and the passage of sweeping accessibility laws both provincial and federal, that persons with disabilities still remain amongst our most marginalized citizens.

The problem is that disability is perceived as abnormal and accessibility is often considered as an unnecessary or even unfair benefit. Unless otherwise stated, the content for my remarks comes from the research undertaken to create my course here at UTSC, “The Politics of Disability” POLD59 and from the brilliant work by Tanya Titchkosky, “Rethinking Normalcy”, as well as the findings of the 3rd Legislative Review of the AODA, which I had the honor of chairing in 2018.

From that review and other studies, we learned that 53% of the population are affected by disability either personally or through an immediate family member. We also learned that their level of unemployment is almost 50% or twice as high as the Great Depression.

We also studied the accomplishments of persons with disabilities who have achieved greatly, looking for common denominators. We found without exception that each achieved employment because of an enlightened employer who gave them a break to begin their careers, who did not presume that their disability would prevent them from succeeding.

David Onley: Guest Lecturer and Distinguished Visitor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto Scarborough; Former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

David Onley was appointed Ontario’s 28th Lieutenant Governor in 2007, with his term ending in September 2014, making him the second longest-serving Lieutenant Governor of Ontario since the office was constituted in 1791. He was a television journalist, prior to his vice regal appointment for Citytv, working as Education Specialist, as well as covering science and technology stories. A published author of best-selling fiction, and a high school science textbook, he was founding president of the Aerospace Heritage Foundation of Canada.

Onley is an accessibility consultant for both the public and private sector, was inaugural chair of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council of the Government of Ontario, and has worked as accessibility council member for the Rogers Centre and the then Air Canada Centre. He was Ambassador to the 2017 Invictus Games for wounded veterans and Honorary Patron to various charitable causes. He is a member of the board of Crossroads Communications and YES TV.

He is the recipient of the Rick Hansen Award of Excellence, the Courage to Come Back Award, and holds 11 honorary degrees. He is a Member of the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, and a recipient of both the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. He has also been inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame and the Scarborough Walk of Fame, and conducted the Third Legislative Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) for the Ontario Government.

David lead our Great Explorations Fall 2019 line-up with Rethinking Normalcy to Achieve Equality for Disabled Persons on October 1, 2019.