Living with deafness did not stop Lorin MacDonald from pursuing her dream of studying law at Western. Today, she is using those skills to lead the way for greater accessibility for all.
“Lorin lives her life as though she has always known what it is like to hear,” says MacDonald’s law school classmate Katherine Ayre. “Notwithstanding profound hearing loss, she uses her education and her energy to ensure people with disabilities have an accessible community in which to live.”
Now based in Toronto, MacDonald’s achievements fostering positive change in Ontario’s accessibility began even before law school. “In the summer before I started at Western Law, I was involved in organizing a cross-disability forum at King's University College aimed at encouraging the provincial government to enact stronger disability legislation,” MacDonald recalls. “It was attended by the Minister in charge of the disability portfolio. Six weeks after the forum, the Minister introduced the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). What a tremendous way to see the law in action while attending law school!” Today, the AODA is a model around the world.
Attending Western came with significant personal sacrifice for MacDonald. “My time at Western was fraught with challenges as I navigated my path as a student with a disability, and a serious health crisis while in law school threatened to overwhelm me,” she says. “The outstanding faculty and staff at Western gave me the strength to get through it all.” During her studies, she worked to increase accessibility on campus and, thanks to MacDonald’s efforts, captioning is now available at Western for any student who requires this accommodation.
After graduating from Western, MacDonald became the first articling student (or lawyer) with a hearing loss to request accommodation in the Hamilton court system. Since then, she has succeeded in making other tribunals and courts in Ontario similarly accessible, making her a role model for others.
MacDonald started law school at 41 years of age, which never fails to garner admiration. “People say to me, ‘Oh, I could never do that, I'm too old!’” she says. “What may seem like an insurmountable task can be tackled if you take it one step at a time. Why not endeavour to reach your full potential if that is what you want?”
MacDonald is a frequent presenter and author on the rights of Ontarians with disabilities and the benefits of an accessible society. Her work has appeared in the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) publications. As a result, Western, the City of London, and the province have recognized her for her contributions. MacDonald is also an active member and participant with various volunteer groups, boards and committees. She presently serves on the OBA’s Equality Committee and is the elected Toronto representative on Council, and serves on the Board of Directors of ARCH Disability Law Centre and the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.
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