OBE ‘is overdue recognition of importance of inclusive education’

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A disabled campaigner says the decision to award him an OBE is an overdue recognition of the importance of inclusive education.

Anthony Ford-Shubrook, a youth ambassador with the charity AbleChildAfrica and a trustee of The Alliance for Inclusive Education, was among the disabled people recognised in the new year honours.

Ford-Shubrook, who has campaigned for inclusive education both in the UK and Africa, was awarded the OBE for services to disabled children in Africa.

He said he was “completely shocked” and “ecstatic” when he heard of the award and was “still in shock” now.

In 2016, Ford-Shubrook (pictured) was one of 17 inaugural Young Leaders – and the only disabled young person – chosen by the UN to promote its Sustainable Development Goals.

At AbleChildAfrica, he continues to campaign for disabled children’s right to inclusive education and sports, and to healthcare.

He has recently returned from Kenya and Rwanda, where he delivered training to young disability rights activists on how to advocate for education for disabled children and young people.

Now in his early 30s, as a teenager he successfully took a pioneering legal case – backed by the Disability Rights Commission – against a sixth form college that had decided the stair-climbing wheelchair he needed to use to reach a first-floor classroom would be a health and safety risk.

It was the first time an injunction had been used to enforce the Disability Discrimination Act in education.

And his undergraduate dissertation on access to education for disabled children in a South African township is used by the South African government in its training for teachers working with disabled children.

He told Disability News Service: “The fact that I’ve been awarded [an OBE]shows that although there’s a lot of work to be done, people are finally realizing the importance of inclusive education, and the benefits it can bring.”

And he said he hoped the OBE would help him continue his campaigning on disability, both in the UK and in Africa. 

He said the fight for inclusive education had been “very important” in his life, because “without going to a mainstream school I would not have had the opportunities I’ve had, would not have been able to do many of the things I’ve done”. 

The government’s own figures showed that only four per cent of recipients in the 2019 new year honours list said they were disabled, compared with five per cent in the 2018 list.

Among other disabled people recognised are broadcaster, conservationist, author and naturalist Chris Packham, presenter of BBC shows such as The Really Wild Show and Springwatch, who receives a CBE.

Packham won widespread praise for the 2017 documentary Chris Packham: Asperger’s and Me, in which he discussed being autistic and made it clear that he would not want to see a “cure” for autism.

He said after the documentary was aired: “We don’t need a cure, there is nothing wrong with us – we are different.

“And that difference has enormous biological and social importance.

“Many of us have skills to invent solutions, produce art and science to benefit all and to receive these gifts all we need in return is understanding, tolerance and acceptance.”

A CBE is also awarded to artist Yinka Shonibare, whose work explores issues of race and class through painting, sculpture, photography and film, and who has supported disability arts organisations such as Shape Arts.

Martin Stevens, chair of Disability Rights UK, is recognised with an OBE for services to people with multiple sclerosis.

Stevens, who has MS himself and has a background in accountancy and business management, is a long-term volunteer for the MS Society and a trustee for the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation.

Also awarded an OBE are Robin Hindle Fisher, a trustee with Scope, who chaired the charity’s Extra Costs Commission, which looked at ways to alleviate disabled people’s extra living costs; and former Scottish rugby international Doddie Weir, who set up a charity to raise funds to research potential cures and support others with motor neurone disease after he was diagnosed with the condition.

Disabled people awarded MBEs include campaigner John Davidson, for services to people with Tourette’s; wheelchair basketball coach and retired Paralympian Caroline Matthews; and motivational speaker and diversity consultant Andrew Walker.

British Wheelchair Basketball (BWB) said Matthews was a “true ambassador of the sport” and had “tirelessly worked to further the development of wheelchair basketball within Wales and on the international stage”.

As well as winning 125 caps for Great Britain between 2002 and 2011, and competing at the Athens and Beijing Paralympics, BWB said she had “changed the landscape of the sport within Wales” and had been either head coach or assistant coach at club, regional, national and international level.

 

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