New year honours: OBE ‘recognises emergence of Deaf people in society’


newslatestA former treasurer of the British Council of Disabled People, an ex-BBC editor, and a psychiatrist who set up Northern Ireland’s first mental health service for deaf people, are among disabled people recognised in this week’s new year honours.

Dr Terry Riley, former editor of the BBC’s See Hear programme for Deaf people, is awarded an OBE for services to broadcasting and Deaf people.

Riley, who chairs the British Deaf Association (BDA) and is chief executive of the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust (BSLBT), first began working with Deaf people when he was elected secretary of Manchester Deaf Club at the age of 15.

He said he was “surprised but extremely honoured” by the award, and saw it as a “tribute not only to what I have done over the past 50 years but to my colleagues and friends at the BDA, BSLBT and BBC, and especially my wife and family”.

He added: “I see this award as an acknowledgement of the emergence of Deaf people in our society and of how Deaf culture and sign language have taken their rightful place on the screen.”

David Buxton, BDA’s chief executive, said Riley had spent five decades “actively and unselfishly serving the Deaf community from the local to the international level, from Manchester to every corner of the world, campaigning for sign language recognition and more equality for deaf people”.

Jane Hunt, who also receives an OBE, has chaired the Association of Disabled Professionals since 2001, and is a member of two HM Revenue and Customs committees, including one that focuses on disabled taxpayers.

Since last year, she has been a trustee and work services director for Action on Disability and Work UK.

Dr Margaret du Feu, a consultant psychiatrist, receives an OBE for services to deaf people in Northern Ireland.

A BSL-user and herself profoundly deaf, she developed England’s third service for mental health and deafness, in Birmingham, before starting a similar service in Northern Ireland.

She extended her work to the Republic of Ireland, and now runs a regular clinic in Dublin.

She has also helped develop a deaf awareness DVD for Queen’s University medical school in Belfast, as well as lecturing on mental health and deafness and speaking frequently at conferences in the UK and abroad.

Du Feu is part of the team organising the sixth World Congress on Mental Health and Deafness, which will be held in Belfast later this year.

Among those disabled people recognised with MBEs in the new year honours is a man who played a key part in introducing wheelchair rugby league to Britain.

Malcolm Kielty, the son of a professional rugby league player and coach, tasted sports administration for the first time as a 17-year-old when he set up his own junior rugby league club.

Years later, following years of voluntary work in sport, he was inspired by watching a wheelchair rugby league demonstration to organise a match against a French team.

That match in 2005 sparked a rapid expansion of the sport in Britain. At last year’s world cup, Kielty managed the Irish team.

Nigel Wood, chief executive of the Rugby Football League, the governing body for rugby league in the UK, said Kielty was one of the “true pioneers” of the sport and that his MBE was “richly deserved” for his “outstanding and unstinting dedication”.

Among his achievements, Kielty has raised thousands of pounds for the organisations he has been involved with, and has also raised money to enable individual disabled people to buy sports wheelchairs.

Another leading figure in the disability sports world who has been recognised is Brian Dickinson, president of the British Disabled Fencing Association (BDFA).

Dickinson competed in the Paralympics as both a swimmer and a wheelchair fencer, representing Britain in four Paralympic Games, winning six medals.

Before becoming BDFA’s president, he was general secretary of the International Wheelchair Fencing Committee, from 1984 to 2005.

A current sports star recognised with an MBE – for services to blind sailing – was Lucy Hodges, who has been sailing internationally for nearly 20 years. She also used to swim at elite level, holding two British records in her S12 category.

Hodges was part of the gold medal-winning British team at last year’s blind sailing world championships in Japan, and is commodore of the charity Blind Sailing.

She admits she was “a little bit emotional, a little bit teary” when she read the letter informing her of the MBE.

Among recent achievements, she points to last year’s gold medal, and seeing some of Blind Sailing’s new recruits competing in last October’s national championships off the Isle of Wight.

She fits in her sailing and voluntary work at Blind Sailing with a full-time job with HM Revenue and Customs.

She said: “I don’t know how I squeeze it all in, but I squeeze it all in.”

She is now hoping to use the MBE to help raise funds for what is a “really small” charity, and recruit new blind and visually-impaired members.

Another disabled recipient of an MBE is Stuart Nixon, who until last year was a trustee and vice-chair of the MS Society.

He marked the charity’s 60th anniversary last year by walking 60 kilometres along London’s Jubilee Greenway over nine days, with the aid of a wheeled walking frame designed just for him, and raising more than £62,000.

Nixon has volunteered for the charity for more than 17 years, and has helped develop services, spent years taking calls on the MS Society helpline, and used his nursing background – he is an NHS manager – in his role as a member of the charity’s research strategy committee.

He said: “It’s impossible to express how honoured I feel. Volunteering for the MS Society has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve done in my life. To be recognised in this way is the icing on the cake.”

2 January 2014