Bethany Firth and Jessica-Jane ApplegateGold medal winning swimmer with a learning disability Bethany Firth and long-running learning disability dance group organiser Avril Hitman have been recognised in the 2017 New Year’s Honours. 

Swimmer Firth (pictured right, with fellow medallist Jessica-Jane Applegate), who won 3 gold medals and 1 silver for Great Britain at the Rio Paralympics in the S14 category for swimmers with a learning disability, has received an MBE for services to swimming.

On Twitter, Firth said: “So honoured to be awarded an MBE in the new year! I just want to thank every one [sic] who has helped me along”.

Hitman, who founded Magpie Dance, an inclusive contemporary dance company, 31 years ago and has run it ever since, received a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to people with learning disabilities in Bromley through dance and arts.

Magpie’s mission is: ‘Unlocking individual potential and ability, to be at the forefront of dance for people with learning disabilities’.

“I’m thrilled and honoured to be recognised in this way with a British Empire Medal,” said Hitman. “My life’s passion working with Magpie’s participants and dancers has inspired me to continue opening doors through the medium of dance to achieve a more inclusive world; thousands of people have experienced and benefited through Magpie’s participation, performance and training programmes over the past 31 years.”

Others to be recognised in the New Year’s Honours included:

Derek McClure received a CBE for services to mental healthcare and people with learning disabilities

Sue Evason, joint founder of the Jennyruth Workshop in Ripon, Yorkshire, was made an MBE for services to people with learning difficulties in Yorkshire

Greg Warner received a BEM for services to heritage and people with learning disabilities in Greenwich, London.