Queen’s birthday honours: OBEs mark couple’s 40 years of volunteering


newslatestA disabled couple who have spent four decades campaigning to persuade the public to be more accepting of difference have both been recognised with OBEs in the Queen’s birthday honours.

Penny and Arthur Dean, from Stockport, have been involved with the Restricted Growth Association (RGA) for 40 years, and have also played major roles in the Dwarf Sports Association UK (DSA).

Arthur Dean founded the DSA 21 years ago, and is currently its president, while Penny is its chair.

She told Disability News Service that she and her husband – who have three children and two grandchildren – were “very proud and thrilled” to be awarded OBEs.

She said: “We use sport as a tool to create positivity and confidence. We believe passionately that society should accept everybody with a difference.

“Whatever we do, I would like to think we leave an impression on people that it is OK to be different.”

She added: “Society is getting better but it still has some way to go to accepting all difference.”

She said she hoped that she and her husband could use their OBEs to “contribute towards creating a better awareness both in life and in sport for people with dwarfism”.

She also volunteers as an adoption advisor for RGA. “We consider that we are here to help people, families who have had a child with dwarfism… to help them and support them and make them feel good about who they are and who their child is.”

As well as her voluntary work with RGA and DSA, she enjoys regular public speaking engagements with the Women’s Institute, business groups and other organisations.

David Walker, founder and now technical director and chair of the mobility company Autochair, also receives an OBE.

He said he had “no inkling” that he was about to receive an award when he opened the letter. “I was amazed because it is stuff that I have been doing for 30 or 40 years.”

He created the “autochair” after becoming disabled following a car accident in 1975 which left him paralysed from the waist down.

Tired of relying on other people to load and unload his wheelchair, he started searching for a way to load it independently into his car.

A prototype was produced in 1979 and by 1983 he was producing it for paying customers.

Autochair is now one of the largest suppliers of vehicle adaptations in the UK, with 46,000 customers, and in 2012 was awarded the Motability supplier of the year award.

He said: “My wife was eight months pregnant when I broke my back. I had three sons under the age of five and I needed to support them. That was a big motivation.”

He added: “The motivation for me was to try and do as much as I could do for myself as opposed to anyone else doing it for me.

“I come from an engineering background so I was able to put a lot of products together that we now sell on our website.”

Autochair’s products are “simple, strong and reliable”, he said.

Among his other products is ServiceCall – a system designed to make it easier for a person with limited mobility to use petrol stations and other services – and he has also installed automatic detectors in the accessible parking spaces of about 40 Asda stores.

18 June 2014