Gold 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.