Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Leaders’ List winners call for their voices to be heard and achievements to be celebrated

The winners of this year’s Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List are calling for a set of diverse changes which work towards the central goal of building a more inclusive society.

The winners are published alongside research by Dimensions which reveals that 72% of people with learning disabilities and autistic people surveyed have felt ignored by society because of their learning disability or autism, and only 37% think they get the same opportunities as everyone else in society.

Against this backdrop, the winners have been chosen for their achievements and successful attempts to create change at community and regional levels.

Leaders’ List winners are ‘boundary pushing’ individuals

The winners of the Leaders’ List were announced at a special awards ceremony at Cineworld O2 London, hosted by the not-for-profit support provider Dimensions.

They are a set of boundary-pushing individuals creating meaningful change in the sector. For example, Lorraine Stanley who is autistic and became disabled at 32, received an award for addressing the lack of resources on disability and sex, and educating, advocating and campaigning tirelessly for accessibility in healthcare and recognition of disability issues.

Kelly Rainey also won an award for managing to move back into the community after spending 12 years in institutions. Kelly was only allowed 20 minutes of unsupervised time each day, but with support from the Transforming Care Programme, she was able to move into her own home in 2019, rebuilding relationships and gaining her independence back.

Other winners include Crystal Higgins, who is one of the founding members of the Girls Group, a safe space for women with learning disabilities and autistic women who have struggled with trauma and abuse, and Ben Fai, who represented Great Britain as a cyclist at the 2023 Special Olympics in Berlin.

Inspiring future change

Rachael Dodgson, Chief Executive of Dimensions, said she hopes sharing these stories will inspire others to create much needed change in the community.

She said: “2024 is set to be a year of immense political change across the globe, but ending systemic injustice can only follow from listening to and championing the voices of our diverse communities. It is vital that people in power and society take note of these stories, as we look towards a society where every individual’s worth is recognised and celebrated.

“The winners of this year’s Leaders’ List are achieving incredible things – from fighting for people with disabilities to be able to access life-saving cancer screenings, to winning silver medals in the Special Olympics, and creating groups to discuss trauma and abuse.

“We’re incredibly proud to be giving them a platform to help inspire further change.”

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