The not-for-profit organisation Dimensions has announced the winners of its 2021 Leaders’ List, which celebrates the extraordinary achievements of people with learning disabilities and/or autism.

The List is run in partnership with Learning Disability England and the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group and was celebrated at a virtual launch event to coincide with the International Day of Disabled Persons.

The announcement of the winners comes following the results of a survey which found that 96% of respondents felt that everyone can learn something from people with learning disabilities and autism, while 84% said that people with learning disabilities and autistic people should be shown more in sports, arts and media.

Three quarters (75%) of respondents also said that it is easy for people in the wider community to forget about people with learning disabilities and autism. Dimensions say that these results highlight the need for such initiatives, as they ensure that people with learning disabilities and autism have increased representation.

The winners were spread across various categories

The winners of the Leaders list 2021 were spread across various categories, including: sports, arts and entertainment; local communities; work and education; and advocacy, policy and media.

Dan Pepper, a Paralympian swimmer, won an award for presenting the programme 'The Fake Paralympians', which looked into the nine-year ban on intellectual impairment sports at the Paralympics following a cheating scandal.

Dan said: “It feels like I’ve finally had a voice with doing the podcast and then with this award – it’s like people have recognised that hard time in my life.”

Ruben Reuter – a Channel 4 News correspondent and actor with Down's syndrome – won for his work reporting on issues such as the effects of the pandemic on people with additional needs and court cases challenging abortion laws.

Nicola Martin was also on the winner’s list. Nicola is a campaigner for neurodiversity communities and has pioneered a national autism training programme with the ‘Your Voice’ team at ‘Talkback UK’ (a leading disability and autism charity).

She said: “I am very honoured to have been selected as a winner of the autism and learning disability leaders award. It feels amazing to know the work I am doing is being recognised and appreciate."

"Leading great change in our society"

BBC Radio 2 DJ Ken Bruce hosted the event this year. Ken is a staunch supporter of Dimensions and his son Murray was a leader for advocacy, policy and the media in 2019.

He said: “It's always so inspirational to hear the stories of the nominees and winners, who have gone above and beyond to help others in a very challenging time. All of them truly are leaders everyone can look up to."

Steve Scown, CEO at Dimensions, said that the winners of the Leaders' List and all the nominees are “leading great change in our society.”

“In spotlighting their achievements, Dimensions aims to accelerate the pace of that change. This Christmas, let’s all be inspired by their achievements,” he added.