I was chuffed to make it into the Disability Power 100. This is the annual list of the most influential disabled people in the UK. It was such an honour to discover that I’d been nominated as a top 10 finalist in the community advocate category for 2023. This surprise was especially meaningful as it is for the voluntary work I do in the field of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). As an AAC user, it is pretty amazing to be acknowledged alongside the overall 2023 winner Dr Shani Dhanda. Shadi has won multiple awards and was closely followed second by fashion designer Victoria Jenkin. In third place overall was well-known comedian Rosie Jones.
Previous winners include some well known names:
Actress Rose Ayling Ellis. Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson. Stephen Hawking, a fellow AAC user. Broadcasters Nikki Fox and Alex Brooker. Baroness Jane Campbell, and Dame Sarah Storey. I’m honoured to be in such great company. You can read my nomination here.
The Disability Power 100
The Disability Power 100 is published annually by The Shaw Trust and lists the top 100 most influential disabled people in the UK. There are 10 categories, each celebrating the achievement and ambition of disabled people and the aim is to encourage the disabled leaders of tomorrow in an inclusive society.
Why raising awareness of AAC is important?
We all have the right to communicate and consequently we must never take this for granted.
- 1 in 200 people need some kind of AAC support and resources for everyday interactions.
- 1 in 2000 people need electronic communication devices, you might know the names of some famous AAC users; Stephen Hawking, Rob Burrows, and ‘lost voice guy’ Lee Ridley.
Sadly, getting the right support and equipment to communicate is not automatic or easy. Then, when you do get the kit you need it can be like learning another language. For a child, it can take years of hard work and resilience to learn to be a confident communicator alongside learning what every other child has to learn. Without a method of communication, it is pretty hard to be included in life, perceived as an equal and able to contribute meaningfully to society.
I am privileged to have had electronic communication devices since I was 4. The result is I know from lived experience that having the right support allows individuals to achieve their own communication potential. Whatever that may be.
Volunteering at home
This award is a result of my passion for inclusion and empowering augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) users of all ages. Since retiring from the UK Sport Paralympic Programme with Boccia Great Britain I’m focused on my lifelong passion through volunteering. I am hugely honoured to be the Patron of 1 Voice, a charity that gave me so much as a child growing up using AAC, making me feel included and valued. Then, I was elected to the Board of Communication Matters (ISAAC UK). I’ve been fortunate to be a member of this amazing charity since I was 15.
From an international perspective, I am lucky enough to be an active member of the International Society of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC). Since I was 18 I’ve had 2 stints on the LEAD committee (leadership for AAC users). More recently I’ve been a committee member of the International Communication Rights Alliance (ICRA). We aim to operationalise the UNCRPD concerning AAC. The result of this work is I’ve twice had the opportunity to address the UNCRPD committee on communication rights, in 2022 and 2023.
Congratulations to all the other amazing finalists and winners I met at the awards event, may you continue to do great work.
#DemandTheChange #disabilitypower100 #aac