The wait is over, the 2024 Disability Power 100 Awards Nominations are open.
The awards – fully owned by Shaw Trust and internationally respected – recognise the UK’s most influential disabled individuals and organisations. They celebrate ambition, achievement and impact. For the finalists recognised in the Disability Power 100, this is more than an award; it’s a statement. It says you’re a leader in your field, recognised by your peers and a catalyst for positive impact.
More than 1 in 5 people in the UK are disabled. And if – like us – you are committed to inclusion and diversity we need employers, society and individuals to champion influential, impactful and innovative disabled role models from all backgrounds and all sectors.
Every year we profile disabled people in powerful and influential roles. And we do this because we know role models matter.
Help us to make change happen. You can support our campaign by:
Nominating someone in your organisation or network who is delivering impact, innovation and inclusion.
Sharing details of the Disability Power 100 through social media and your networks.
Creating social media posts celebrating anyone within your organisation who has been recognised by the Disability Power 100.
Lee is a multi award-winning entrepreneur, who was recognised in our 2023 Science and Engineering category.
In 2014, Lee lost the ability to walk due to an autoimmune illness. After relearning, he decided to use the experience as a catalyst to launch Essentialise, an innovative wellbeing and inclusion agency, and has gone on to be interviewed by Vogue, Newsweek and The Guardian. Read Lee’s full profile.
Celia is a multi-award winning campaigner, lobbyist, investor and policy designer. She’s been recognised for several years by the Disability Power 100 for her work in politics and law, and has founded several disabled-led organisations focused on the development and advancement of policy, ensuring that disabled people are at the heart of legislation. Read more about Celia.
Jason, who was recognised in our Visual Arts, Fashion and Design category, has exhibited his work around the world, including the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar, the Houses of Parliament, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Victoria and Albert Museum, and Folkestone Triennial. Learn more about Jason’s work.
We look forward to seeing Lee, Celia and Jason’s outfits!
Deborah Lawson, named as one of the UK’s most influential disabled people by the 2023 Disability Power 100, was honoured with the ‘Woman of Courage Award’ from the Global She Inspires Awards in November and also achieved her second ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ in November from the National Advocacy Awards. Recognised as the youngest recipient of two such Lifetime Achievement awards in 2023, Deborah has dedicated over two decades to driving positive change in the disabled community.
Her commitment since her teens has led her to support thousands of disabled individuals and their families, amplifying their voices and ensuring they are treated with dignity and respect. She’s helped improve the accessibility and facilities in thousands of buildings, created a nationwide disability awareness training programme used in over 600 stores and provided professional and accessible fashion advice in more than 500 stores during personal shopping appointments. To ensure change is made at a policy level, she’s a member of The Regional Stakeholder Network, and she supports and advises her local council on accessibility and raising disability awareness. Deborah’s impact continues to extend across many areas and includes an upcoming book aimed at fostering self-acceptance in young children.
The National Advocacy Awards said, “Deborah has supported thousands of disabled people to secure their rights…she’s worked tirelessly with organisations in the field of fashion and business….and has turned the words diversity, equality and inclusion into reality. She was an early pioneer of diversity and courageously advocated for greater acceptance at a time when there was a lot of intolerance and resistance towards anybody raising this type of awareness. But the moment anyone puts a hurdle there, she smashes straight through it. Deborah doesn’t just talk about change; she makes change happen.”
Eighteen-year-old Iona Wilkinson, a self-confessed theme parks superfan, has become the first disabled person to be officially recognised as an ambassador for the Access Card scheme.
College student Iona, who lives near Sheffield, has visual and mobility impairments and also lives with autism and dyspraxia which means that she needs an essential companion on a day out and requires accessibility adjustments such as shorter queues for theme park rides.
She applied for an Access Card a couple of years ago and says that it has given her far more independence and increased her enjoyment on a day out – safe in the knowledge that staff can instantly understand and meet her accessibility needs.
Iona spends many hours researching thrill-seeking rides and then visits theme parks across the UK regularly with her dad Steve and other friends and family.
She answered a call-out on social media from Nimbus Disability who run the Access Card to become an ambassador for the accessibility scheme and her introduction video was chosen above scores of other applicants.
The Access Card has been developed by Nimbus Disability – the Derby-based social enterprise run by disabled people for disabled people.
The Access Card has been recognised with The Queen’s Award for Innovation and is now held by more than 300,000 people across the UK.
It is the first accessibility scheme of its type in the world – offering a universal and consistent way of disabled people evidencing and communicating their access requirements to providers quickly and discreetly.
Nimbus’ specialist team handle all applications for the Access Card so that disabled people only have to provide evidence and paperwork once.
The cardholders’ disability/impairment is then translated into symbols which are included on the physical card and registered on the Access Card bespoke software which works alongside a venue’s online booking system.
This means that, when disabled people book tickets online, the venue informed quickly and discreetly about the access requirements that individuals need from eligibility to essential companion tickets to the necessity for wheelchair-accessible facilities and much more.
This removes the need for disabled people to continually call ‘special’ booking lines’ and fill in ‘special’ booking forms or answer personal and invasive questions over the phone.
It is already widely recognised at the majority of the UK’s leisure and tourism venues with a large number allowing online integration and booking for disabled customers including Buckingham Palace, The NEC Resorts World Arena and Alton Towers as well as at venues in the USA, Europe and New Zealand.
Iona explained: “I love going to theme parks but I do need adjustments. Before I had the Access Card, we would have to turn up with a load of DLA, PIP and medical paperwork to prove that I need an essential companion and queue passes.
“You never really knew whether these would be available or whether the person on the desk would understand my disabilities. Furthermore, my dad often used to have to spend the day re-explaining what we needed which could be really stressful for us all.
“Now, we can book tickets in advance at venues such as Alton Towers, they immediately know my needs so we can just turn up and enjoy a fun day out.
“Having the Access Card has also made me realise that there are so many other places that I can use it from festivals to theatres so it is encouraging me to broaden my horizons.
“The Access Card has solidified the whole subject of accessibility. A person’s disability is not always obvious but, this way, it ensures that people who really need reasonable adjustments get them.
“It also takes the legwork out of accessibility for the providers such as theme park operators as they leave the system to the experts so it’s a win/win for everyone.
“I was dubious at first about whether the Access Card would work and would make a difference but it really has been a breath of fresh air and I would encourage anybody with a disability to apply for the card.”
Iona added: “I am very proud to be the first ambassador for the Access Card and particularly to be focused on theme parks which are my passion.
“I would love to work in accessibility as a job – perhaps bringing my lived experience to venues to help them make the adjustments needed to ensure everyone can enjoy a day out – regardless of their disability.”
Martin Austin MBE, managing director of Nimbus Disability, continued: “Ultimately our operating system lessens the administrative burden on disabled people at the same time as opening up equality of access to online ticketing solutions from West End theatres to theme parks.
“Iona has eloquently shown just why she is the perfect person to launch our ambassador programme.
“Through the ambassador programme, we want to empower our Access Card holders to highlight the benefits of the Access Card and give them a platform to share their lived experience with the growing number of providers and venues who work with us to improve accessibility for disabled people.”
Merlin’s Resort Theme Parks accessibility manager Kate McBirnie concluded: “We were delighted to welcome Nimbus Disability, Iona and her dad to Alton Towers to film this video.
“By working with Nimbus over the past two years, we have greatly improved the visitor experience for disabled people who now have a seamless and positive journey when booking tickets that reflect their individual accessibility requirements.
“It has also taken the pressure off team members at Alton Towers who can concentrate on providing a fantastic experience for guests – confident that the accessibility requirements have already been confirmed and validated by the Nimbus team.”
Dr Shani Dhanda, a regular on Loose Women and Rip Off Britain, campaigner and businesswoman, said: “I really hope that non-disabled people are taking note and stop having low expectations of us, because we are flipping amazing!”
The number two spot was taken by adaptive fashion designer Victoria Jenkins, who has been featured in Vogue and showed her collection at London Fashion Week.
While number three was taken by comedian Rosie Jones, who caused controversy earlier in the year with her documentary exploring the online abuse faced by disabled people.
While the top three spots were taken by women, the top ten also included Oxford academic Jason Arday and Paralympian, surgeon and first disabled astronaut John McFall.
The Last Leg’s Alex Brooker MC-ed the sometimes-raucous gala event in Wembley at which the winners were celebrated.
Alex said: “It was a pleasure to be number one on the list in 2018.” “Apparently you can’t win it twice … got nothing to compete for now!”, but added “It’s also great to see Shaw Trust helping to spotlight the incredible achievements and contributions disabled people are making across the UK.”
The 100 finalists were selected by an independent judging panel from more than 1,500 public nominations.
Speaking about the winners, the chair of judges, BAFTA Trustee, Andrew Miller MBE, commented: “The Disability Power 100 not only recognises difference, perseverance and hard work, the list also celebrates the positive benefits that diversity and greater equality bring.”
The event attracted significant sponsorship, demonstrating the importance that huge corporations place on disability inclusion, and their commitment to making change happen.
The following images can be used alongside publication of this press release.
Notes to Editors
Shaw Trust’s mission is to help people into good work – work that is satisfying, rewarding, purposful and has opportunities for progression.
Shaw Trust was founded in 1982, and now supports people across England, Wales and Scotland.
In 2022, Shaw Trust supported 335,000 people, in areas such as health and wellbeing, employability, and education and skills.
At the Shaw Trust Foundation, we’re tackling the disability employment gap by demanding that the strengths and talents of disabled people are recognised and that society is inclusive.
Disability Power 100
The Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 recognises disabled individuals and disabled-led organisations who have had significant impact and success in the past 12 months.
It amplifies the achievements of disabled people, and promotes representation and inclusion.
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