Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario


Accessibility An Issue For All: Onley

Wed Apr 09, 2008
quote1 'Accessibility is that which enables people to achieve their full potential.' -- David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario

WHITBY -- Accessibility is not just about removing physical barriers.

That was the message Lieutenant Governor David Onley passed on to a full auditorium when Whitby Mental Health Centre (WMHC) launched its Accessibility Awareness Program last Wednesday.

Lt-Gov. Onley, who has lived with polio and post-polio syndrome, worked as a broadcaster for many years. He outlined the true meaning of access for Ontarians with disabilities.

"By accessibility I don't mean just curb cuts or wider doorways or wheelchair-friendly public transportation, although all of these are crucial," said Lt.-Gov. Onley. "By accessibility I mean the following definition: accessibility is that which enables people to achieve their full potential."

These sentiments were echoed by others who spoke at the event.

"Accessibility is more than just physical and visual modifications to a building," said Brian Hart, WHMC board chairman. "It's a mind-set While those bricks and mortar changes to a building are very important we encourage you to think of accessibility in terms of inclusion, opportunity and acceptance."

Accessibility is an issue that affects many. According to Statistics Canada data an estimated one out of every seven Canadians or 14.3 per cent of the population reported having a disability in 2006. This number was an increase of more than three-quarters of a million people over results reported in 2001.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed in 2005 and endorsed by all parties. Lt.-Gov. Onley said such unanimity is "virtually unprecedented," and added he believes MPPs recognize the issue of accessibility as one that transcends politics.

Lt.-Gov. Onley's story is particularly dear to one staff member at the health facility.

"As we were growing up and even to this day I have seen him navigate through a world that wasn't accessible," said Liz Onley-Wiseman, manager of volunteer services at WMHC and the lieutenant governor's sister as she introduced her brother to the crowd.

Ms. Onley-Wiseman said her brother's strength of character and commitment to achieving his goals are "truly remarkable."

Reproduced from

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