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Retiring McDonald’s employee, 50, blazed a path for others with Down syndrome

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In his 32-year-career, Russell O’Grady has become a local icon and delighted customers with his “cheery grin” at a McDonald’s restaurant in Sydney, Australia.

O’Grady, 50, was born with Down syndrome and has been working with the fast-food chain since 1986 —unwittingly becoming a trailblazer for people with intellectual disabilities with his long tenure.

Next to Ronald McDonald, he’s become one of the most iconic people at the restaurant in west Sydney. A colleague wrote in an email that he’s become a “bit of an icon locally.”

“Russell’s impact on people in his community is without doubt exceptional,” said Wynn Visser, assistant manager of Jobsupport, a program which helps find paid employment for people with intellectual disabilities.

“Everybody knows him and they really love him because he always stops to shake hands and say ‘Hi’ to everyone he knows.”

O’Grady’s decision to turn in his uniform is due in large part to health reasons that come with his age.

“As his family, our objective is to find him new activities to keep him both healthy and active in his community,” she said, adding he’ll now spend more time having dog therapy; and socializing with friends at the gym, bowling alley and local retirement home.

She said plenty of customers will miss O’Grady as many would regularly go into the restaurant just to see him.

“He has only told me he will miss seeing his friends at work (who are mainly young girls who make a fuss of him), his boss and all the people who call in to see him,” Visser said, speaking on behalf of O’Grady and his family.

When he was 18 years old, O’Grady became one of the first people to have access to Jobsupport program which helped shape his role and provided him vocational training.

“Russell’s tenure is truly remarkable,” Visser said, adding that the program partners with 75 McDonald’s restaurants in the country. On average, their clients with moderate intellectual disabilities work in the fast-food chain for nine years.

His long-standing time there hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2012, O’Grady was profiled on YouTube by Disability Employment Australia, an organization which represents the disability employment sector throughout the country.

Since then, he’s worked a variety of different tasks including cleaning and clearing trays, sweeping the floors, greeting customers, serving up orders and packaging party boxes.

 

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University of Windsor establishes first Canadian transportation cybersecurity centre

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The University of Windsor will be the site of Canada’s first organization dedicated to countering threats to the connected transportation marketplace.

The SHIELD Automotive Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence will focus on developing the skills, innovations and policy to secure connected and autonomous vehicles.

Researchers will partner with industry, government and community stakeholders.

Co-founding and heading up the centre will be Dr. Mitra Mirhassani of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Dr. Ikjot Saini of the School of Computer Science.

In the past year, the two University of Windsor professors were both recognized as being among Canada’s top talents in the automotive cybersecurity field.

“Hardware and software vulnerabilities could put personal information and vehicle safety in jeopardy,” said Mirhassani.

“Transportation systems are especially susceptible to attacks from malicious actors due to the complexity, implementation costs and lifecycles of equipment and platforms.”

The SHIELD centre is a continuation of the Windsor region’s focus on developing its cybersecurity ecosystem.

The province has already designated the area as the regional tech development centre for cybersecurity and border logistics.

The cybersecurity centre got a further boost this week with the announcement of a memorandum of understanding with the Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association (APMA).

APMA and SHIELD will collaborate to develop market-based technologies to meet the needs of producers and consumers and build academic programs to address industry’s evolving requirements.

“We hope that this partnership will help to advance a cybersecurity culture shift in the industry in Canada,” said APMA president Flavio Volpe.

“There is much work to be done to protect our collective interest in advancing this country’s globally competitive automotive sector.”

The centre will also promote the sharing of knowledge among parties to advance standards and enhance policies in the field.

Part of the plan is to offer micro credentialing through the university’s Continuing Education programs.

“We plan to offer consultation and test services to small- and medium-sized Canadian companies that will help them stay up to date,” said Dr. Saini.

“Open-access publications and public webinars will widely share the latest information.”

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Hamilton police charge ‘Hugs Over Masks’ protest organizers in two separate events

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TORONTO — Hamilton, Ont., police say they have charged two organizers of an anti-mask protest group for holding events that allegedly violated public health rules.

Police say the events were held in downtown Hamilton on Jan. 3 and Jan. 10.

The force alleges that 40 people attended first event and 60 attended the second.

Current provincial restrictions limit gatherings to a maximum of 10 people outdoors.

Police say they informed the “Hugs Over Masks” organizers that the planned Jan. 10 gathering would result in charges, but they went ahead with the event.

They say a 27-year-old man and 38-year-old woman are facing charges under the Reopening Ontario Act that carry a minimum fine of $10,000 if convicted.

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Ontario issues stay-at-home order to start Thursday as Ford declares state of emergency

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Premier Doug Ford is declaring another state of emergency, effective immediately, in response to surging COVID-19 infection rates.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Ford announced Ontario is issuing a stay-at-home order, effective 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

It requires people to stay home except for essential activities such as accessing health care or shopping for groceries.

The new measures also include restricting the hours of operation for non-essential retail stores such as hardware stores to between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Addressing big box stores, which are allowed to remain open, Ford said an inspection blitz is coming to ensure they are following proper protocols.

“I’m going to come down on them like an 800-pound gorilla,” he said.

Schools in Hamilton, Toronto, York, Peel and Windsor-Essex will not return to in-person learning until Feb. 10.

Other public health regions, including Halton and Niagara, will find out when students can return to class by Jan. 20.

Schools will now require students in grades 1-3 to wear masks and masks will be required outside where physical distancing can’t be maintained.

Child-care centres for non-school aged children will remain open.

The premier announced the restrictions shortly after the province released new projections that show the virus is on track to overwhelm Ontario’s health-care system.

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