Dimensions, the UK’s largest not-for-profit that supports people with learning disabilities and autism, has announced the winners of its Annual Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List, celebrating the extraordinary stories and achievements of individuals across the UK. The List is run in partnership with Learning Disability England and the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group.
2021 Leaders will be celebrated at a virtual event hosted by Ken Bruce, BBC Radio 2 DJ, whose son Murray was a Leader for advocacy, policy and the media in 2019.
Ken said: “Murray and I are staunch supporters of all the work that Dimensions does, and it is a privilege to host the Leaders’ List event for the second year. It’s always so inspirational to hear the stories of the nominees and winners, who have gone above and beyond to help others in a very challenging time. All of them truly are Leaders everyone can look up to.”
Recent Dimensions research has revealed that 96% of respondents felt that everyone can learn something from people with learning disabilities and autism. In addition, 84% said that people with learning disabilities and autistic people should be shown more in sports, arts and media, and 75% said that is easy for people in the wider community to forget about people with learning disabilities and autism, making initiatives such as the annual Leaders List all the more significant.
Recognitions like the Leaders’ List can ensure that people with learning disabilities and autism have increased representation. Further research by Dimensions showed that 26% of respondents classified a crime against them as a hate crime because the person knew the respondent had a disability. The Leaders’ List helps to address this by dispelling myths and challenging stigmas that are associated with learning disabilities.
2021 Leaders are from the following categories: sports, arts and entertainment; local communities; work and education; and advocacy, policy and media.
Some Leaders across the categories include:
- Dan Pepper – a Paralympian swimmer who presented the programme ‘The Fake Paralympians’, looking into the nine-year ban on intellectual impairment sports at the Paralympics, following a cheating scandal
“It’s obviously a surprise and emotional as it’s my story. It feels like I’ve finally had a voice with doing the podcast and then with this award it’s like people have recognised that hard time in my life.”
- Ruben Reuter – a Channel 4 News correspondent and actor with Down’s syndrome, who has reported on issues such as the effects of the pandemic on people with additional needs and court cases challenging abortion laws
“I can’t really believe that I’ve won this award. I feel very privileged to be part of this amazing community and want to say well done to everyone who entered. We are all winners.”
- Caiden Rolph – a ten-year-old boy with autism who has travelled over 2500 miles and raised more than £2000 to help fourteen branches of the ‘Blood Bikes’ charity
“I’m so happy to be chosen, I don’t think I have done anything special, I’m just happy to help others.”
- Chloe Douds – a member of the LGBTQIA+ community who is campaigning for Pride events to be made more accessible and inclusive for physically disabled and autistic people
“It feels amazing to have been nominated for and to have won a leaders award. It makes me feel really proud of myself to know that the work I’ve been doing is making a difference to my peers and others.”
- Nicola Martin – a campaigner for neurodiversity communities who has pioneered a national autism training programme with the ‘Your Voice’ team at ‘Talkback UK’ (a leading disability and autism charity)
“I am very honoured to have been selected as a winner of the autism and learning disability leaders award. It feels amazing to know the work I am doing is being recognised and appreciated.”
- Helen Evans – CEO of the PDA Society who spoke out publicly about systemic sexual exploitation and abuse at Oxfam in 2018
“I asked my son and he said: “Mummy can I make a sign for you to hold saying it’s OK to be different”, this very much sums up how I feel about this award. A wonderful celebration of our differences and the difference we can make.”
- Abdul Hameed – Abdul has a learning disability and visual impairment, and has coached and volunteered with sport clubs including Chelsea FC and Arsenal FC as well as creating his own inclusive sports opportunities and mixed ability sports programmes
“I am happy to have won the award and will use it to inspire and support others to becomes leaders in their own field.”
- Saul Zur-Szpiro – Saul has multiple learning disabilities, autism, visual impairment, communication difficulties and serious health problems, and is a drummer with the band AutistiX
“People are blown aware by the transformation that happens when he sits down at his kit, turning into a drummer! He is an inspiration to other people with disabilities, and to parents, carers, teachers, medical professionals, in fact everyone that he meets!” (statement from Saul’s mother)
Steve Scown, CEO at Dimensions, said: “The winners of Dimensions’ 2021 Leaders List – and indeed all the extraordinary nominees – are leading great change in our society. In spotlighting their achievements Dimensions aims to accelerate the pace of that change. This Christmas, let’s all be inspired by their achievements.”
Jordan Smith, Wendy Burt, and Scott Watkin BEM, Representative Body Co-Chairs at Learning Disability England, said: “The List is more than an award. It is national recognition and celebration of the important contributions people with learning disabilities and autistic people make locally and nationally across all walks of life. Learning Disability England is proud to be a partner to the Leader’s List and congratulates everyone who took part.”
Dr Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive at Voluntary Organisations Disability Group: “The Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List celebrates the remarkable achievements and contributions that people with learning disabilities and autism make to communities and to the lives of others each and every day. The Voluntary Organisations Disability Group is a proud supporter of the List, and we send a huge congratulations to all the nominees and winners.”