The disability world is mourning the loss of one of its most respected campaigners, Baroness [Nicky] Chapman of Leeds.
The crossbench life peer, who died on 3 September aged 48, had been a member of the Lords since 2004.
Among her other roles, she chaired Leeds Centre for Integrated Living’s (LCIL) management committee, Habinteg Housing Association and Leeds United Disabled Organisation (LUDO).
Susan Morrell, manager of LCIL, said everyone connected with the organisation would be “devastated”, and that she personally had lost a “friend and support, particularly in difficult times”.
She said: “For me as a disabled woman, everything she did was because she was a disabled woman and had that personal experience of oppression and disabling barriers.”
She said Baroness Chapman was able to use her Lords position to speak out against attempts to legalise euthanasia.
In July, she was one of three disabled peers who joined Baroness Campbell in voting against attempts to weaken the law on assisted suicide.
Morrell said she also helped other disabled people fight for their rights, and had the understanding, force of character, and pragmatism, to fight the system.
She said: “Somebody with her energy, knowledge and understanding can take those fights forward, where other people could not because of oppression.
“She was a role model for a lot of people. She would say herself that nobody is replaceable but some people are very, very hard to replace.”
As well as chairing Habinteg, which provides affordable, accessible homes, Baroness Chapman had been one of its tenants for 20 years.
Habinteg described her as “a passionate and inspirational leader” with “outspoken views” who had a “naturally persuasive wit and passion”, and championed social inclusion, accessible design and independent living.
Mike Donnelly, chief executive of Habinteg, who nominated Nicky Chapman as a people’s peer, said she was a “great champion of difference” and “lived her life fighting for the right to be respected and included”. He said he and many colleagues had lost a good friend.
Baroness Chapman was a passionate supporter of Leeds United. The team, who play in Coca-Cola Football League One, wore black armbands for their home match against Stockport County on 5 September. The club opened a book of condolences for fans to sign.
Shaun Harvey, the club’s chief executive, said: “She was inspirational, she was a fighter, she was a character, and she was devoted to everything she believed in.”
8 September 2009