Birthday honours: Campaigners win recognition


Disabled campaigners mentioned in the Queen’s birthday honours have spoken of their shock at having their work recognised.

George Glass is to receive an MBE, after years of campaigning for the rights of blind and partially-sighted people in Stockton-on-Tees.

He lived as a “recluse” for 30 years after becoming blind in his 20s but decided to “return to the world” in 1986. When he did he was appalled at the lack of support available to blind people.

He helped set up BlindVoice UK – originally known as Stockton Blind People’s Voice – in 1997, and was its chair for 15 years until retiring this April.

He said: “I felt blind people had a raw deal, that there was a general ignorance and prejudice against blindness. We didn’t get an equal share with other disabilities.”

He and his fellow campaigners pushed for improvements to services in the Stockton area, writing letters to the council and local newspapers and meeting with politicians.

The charity now provides support and services to blind and partially-sighted people in Stockton and across the UK.

Now honorary life president, he describes himself as “a worn-out campaigner”, but says that most of the things that originally angered and motivated him have been “resolved or at least greatly mitigated”, while the charity has helped give blind people “a bigger voice” and make “a bigger noise”.

Glass said he was “utterly astounded and amazed” when he found out about the MBE and now hopes the honour will again help to bring the issue of blindness to public attention.

Ruth Owen, chief executive of Whizz-Kidz, which provides wheelchairs and other mobility equipment to disabled children, is recognised with an OBE.

Owen said she was “shocked” by the “huge honour”, which she said was a recognition of the charity’s work.

She praised her “fantastic team” at Whizz-Kidz, and added: “I just hope it will allow us to continue doing the work that we do.”

Frank Stapleton, who has spearheaded a 17-year fundraising campaign on behalf of the Beds and Northants MS Therapy Centre, receives an MBE for services to people with ms and their families.

He says the award “came out the blue” but was a “great honour”.

He was originally asked to raise money to build a new centre when he retired in 1995, after being diagnosed with ms, and has now helped raise £2 million as chair of the fundraising committee.

He describes himself as “a complete amateur” when it comes to fundraising, and puts his success down to saying “please and thank you” to potential funders.

He is also proud that every pound raised has gone into building or equipping the centre, rather than on expenses such as phone calls or car mileage payments.

He said: “Everything that has been given is in that building or in the equipment inside.”

Matt King, who became disabled after he was seriously injured playing rugby league for London Broncos as a 17-year-old, receives an OBE.

He later graduated with a first-class law degree, and secured a training contract with Stewarts, a leading firm of personal injury lawyers in London.

He is an ambassador for the children’s charity Variety, which provided him with an electric wheelchair after his accident, raises funds for the Rugby Football League’s benevolent fund, and supports spinal injury charities.

He said: “It is such a great honour for me to receive this OBE and I am deeply humbled to have even been considered.”

Former stunt bike jumper Eddie Kidd – who became disabled after a near-fatal accident in 1996 – receives an OBE for services to charity, having set up a foundation to support the treatment and rehabilitation of stunt performers and extreme sports professionals.

21 June 2012