Not only has Mr. Onley promoted an accessible province, but he has also been a strong proponent of integrating disabled persons into the job market. This hiring process reaches a largely untapped source of employees that tend to be more dedicated to their jobs, have better attendance, and are far less likely to leave.
The Lang & O’Leary Exchange (February 27, 2014):
Hiring people with disabilities
Supporting this development, he has said: “I wish to continue to raise awareness about accessibility for people with disabilities, and the importance to the economy of lowering the unacceptable high level of unemployment for disabled people. Much of this is based on employers’ misperceptions and belief in negative myths about hiring people with disabilities.”
An example often cited by Mr. Onley involves the British government’s centre for electronic espionage. The British government actively recruits persons with autism and Asperger’s syndrome because of their ability to spot patterns, making them first-rate code breakers.
A United States-based company called Lime Connect (founded by Rich Donovan, who lives with Down Syndrome) specializes in the “disability marketplace”. After years of research, the company has determined that people with disabilities make up an emerging global marker of 1.1 billion people (roughly equivalent to the entire population of China). However, by analyzing companies in the S&P 500 Index, it was determined that only 25% of companies had strategies aimed at people with disabilities. The Lieutenant Governor not only sees this as an untapped financial market with great economic opportunity, but as a severe human rights problem.
In his installation speech (PDF, 37 KB), Mr. Onley said that “accessibility is a human right, and accessibility is right”. Since then, he has come to consider accessibility to be all that which allows a person to reach their full potential. This definition allows for each person to decide what they need to succeed, and their own level of accessibility.
Below is a list of some of the Lieutenant Governor’s accessibility-related undertakings.
- Established the Lieutenant Governor’s Accessibility Committee, a loose grouping of leading business and industry representatives that seeks to promote accessibility best practices;
- Successfully encouraged both the private and public sectors to create accessible work environments;
- Works closely with many community-based organizations promoting accessibility services (including Legal Leaders in Diversity and Rotary at Work);
- Officially represented Canada at the 2008 Beijing Summer Paralympics;
- Officially received the Pan/ ParaPan Am flag in Guadalajara, Mexico, for Toronto’s 2015 Pan/ ParaPan Am Games;
- Visited Ontario’s remote First Nations communities to promote literacy (another form of accessibility);
- Travelled to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Paralympics;
- Acted as a representative of Ontario at the 2012 London Summer Paralympics;
- Speaks at hundreds of events every year, his presence being a personal reminder of the need for increased accessibility.