NSB Logo Hon. David Onley Hon. David Onley

Hon. David Onley

Speaker Exclusive

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Accessibility Advocate, Former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario

As Ontario’s first Lieutenant Governor with a physical disability, The Honourable David C. Onley adopted accessibility as the overarching theme of his mandate. Defining accessibility as “that which enables people to achieve their full potential,” and believing that true accessibility occurs only when disabled people can completely participate in all aspects of social, cultural, and economic life, Onley shares the leadership lessons he’s learned from his experience at one of the top echelons of government, as well as his message of human rights for all.

Keynote Speeches

The Gifts of Great Leaders

In this riveting and engrossing talk, David Onley builds on the following quote by Lord Sacks: “One of the gifts of great leaders, and one from which each of us can learn, is that they frame reality for the group. They define its situation. They specify its aims. They articulate its choices. They tell us where we are and where we are going in a way no satellite navigation system could. They show us the map and the destination, and help us see why we should choose this route not that.” Through personal and historic examples, he demonstrates how the above principles can–and do–work for organizations large and small.


Enhancing Profits and Productivity through Hiring People with Disabilities

Counter-intuitively, the fast track to better business is recruiting from the thousands of college and university graduates who are trained to work, are able to work, and who want to work, yet who are on government assistance because they aren’t being hired. Citing the many recent studies that demonstrate higher productivity, lower absenteeism, and virtually zero workers’ comp claims experienced by employers who hire people with disabilities, David Onley takes audiences through the benefits of a diverse workplace. From individual fast food restaurants to large corporations such as Walgreens, the pattern is the same: productivity and profits go up and absenteeism goes down when people with disabilities are hired. Onley addresses why companies are missing out on this opportunity while at the same time worrying about a labour shortage that for the most part simply does not exist–because the potential employees are out there, ready to be put to work.


Speaker Biography

Onley was appointed Ontario’s 28th Lieutenant Governor in 2007, with his term ending in September, 2014. His seven years of service makes him the second longest-serving Lieutenant Governor of Ontario since the office was constituted in 1791.

Onley was a television journalist prior to his vice regal appointment for CityTV working as Education Specialist as well as covering science and technology stories. Later, he served with the 24-hour news station CablePulse 24 as a news anchor and host/producer of a weekly technology series, Home Page. 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 Air Canada Centre. He is Ambassador to the 2017 Invictus Games for wounded veterans and Honorary Patron to various charitable causes. He is currently Colonel Emeritus of the Regiment of The Queen’s York Rangers (1st American Regiment), and was the Honorary Colonel of 25 Field Ambulance.

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.