The 'Disability Power 100' list covers successful disabled people in politics, media, sport and entertainment. Produced by Powerful Media and sponsored by The Shaw Trust, it's creating important discussions about being disabled in 2016. This year Tanni Grey Thompson chaired the judging panel.
I'm still not sure who entered me, but a couple of months ago I was asked to list my recent achievements. Very touched that someone had thought of me, I replied and cracked on with my projects.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I was contacted to say I'd made the top 100. I was so pleased to be chosen in a list full of amazing people. Getting 99th place would have been awesome. Then during our working trip to Mallorca last week, I was asked for a quote as I'd made the top 10. A day later I was informed confidentially I'd made 3rd place!
I was just behind Britain's most decorated female Paralympian Sarah Storey in first, and Channel 4 presenter Alex Brooker in second. BBC presenter Andrew Marr who became disabled from a stroke was number 8.
I'm writing this article after a couple of days of congratulations and digestion. My chin is almost back off of my lap now. But what does this all really mean to me?
Inspiring Younger Disabled People
Some people in the disability world hate the word 'inspire' or 'inspirational'. This is because when a disabled person goes to work or to a nightclub it's often seen as inspiring to members of the public. When in fact it should be a normal everyday activity. Unfortunately access, attitudes and regulations make it more difficult. However us disabled people are not here to inspire other people because of our difficulties. We really just want equality and to live a fulfilled life. Like all humans do.
For me inspiration does have its place though. When I was growing up I'd wonder how I'd live without my mum and dad doing my care. If I'd work. If I'd drive. If I'd travel. If I'd have sex. You get my point. There were lots of worries and doubts.
Image Credit - Martyn Sibley
Image Credit - Train and Play
Image Credit - Martyn Sibley
It is my hope that the amazing people on the list can show younger disabled people what can be achieved. Naturally everyone has different needs, different personalities, and different goals. The list just shows that whatever you want in life can be reached.
Stopping the Government Regression of Disability Support
I can't speak for Sarah or Alex or Andrew. However my life has been tough at times. I don't want to play the victim or get my small violin out. But needing help to dress, turn at night, shower and lots more is challenging. The equipment and people who enable me to live my life, quite rightly, have a cost.
In most civilised societies we acknowledge that those who are born with or acquire a disability should have support from the government. Let's be clear. Nobody chooses this. Plus it can and does effect all people.
Unfortunately those who are untouched by disability do not grasp the reality. Disabled people are all different, all human, and all just trying to get by in life.
Even more unfortunately the government recently has kept on cutting the funding for vital services. Every year it's such a fight to get funding for my care, equipment, and transport for an independent life.
Some may say "yeah, but it all costs the tax payer". Well yes it does. That's exactly what taxes are for. To include everyone in society and enable them to participate in every day life. Surely you'd expect that if you needed such support.
Furthermore the costs of not providing these vital inputs result in:
1) loss of economic contribution from many disabled people who would otherwise work.
2) loss of income and consumption (VAT) taxes from disabled people, their support workers, the equipment providers and on everyday consumer goods.
3) increase in NHS costs from lack of physical care support.
4) increase in NHS costs from mental health issues as a consequence of being 'stuck' at home.
The list could go on and on. We all know we don't measure life just from economics. There's softer benefits to equality too.
I therefore urge society and government to look at this list of successful disabled people. To keep investing in those who face more barriers than others. This includes barriers from race, religion, sexuality, gender and mental health.
In the end our economy, our communities, and our world will be far better for it.
For Everyday People
Whilst I'm in danger of inviting 'inspiration' here, I do want ALL people to understand the difficulties and the potential contribution of disabled people.
The more we can discuss the reality, dispel the myths, and remove the barriers - the quicker disabled people can give their talents to the world. For the benefit of everybody.
Latest government research shows the spending power of disabled people as consumers is £212bn. Becoming known as the 'Purple Pound', I for one am using this to engage brands with Disability Horizons.
Maybe this will give 'progress' some new momentum. The thing to remember is this though. Whether we are rich or not, are talented or not - everyone should have access to a level playing field in life.
Naturally I'm feeling very happy and proud to be voted at number 3. I've never worked in this field for riches or fame, but a pat on the back is always nice.
Most of all I hope to use my influence in the way I already have done. To encourage other disabled people to grab their dreams. To campaign the government via Disability United and partners for more equality. To get businesses to make accessible products and services. Plus to employ disabled people. To simply engage society more on the reality of living life with a disability.
You never know. We might just create a world where everyone is fulfilled and happy! :-)
Thank you for all your support and here's to changing the world one day at a time.
CEO and Co-Founder Disability Horizons
Co-Founder Disability Academy
Founder Disability United