Athletes, politicians, writers, and musicians included on an annual list of the 100 most influential people with disabilities or impairments have called for more visibility for disabled people.
The list, which features a wide range of public figures from musicians to politicians and broadcasters, is a annual celebration of those with disabilities or impairments.
Roy O’Shaughnessy, chief executive of Shaw Trust, a national disability charity which worked with Power Media to create the list, told BuzzFeed News the list plays a "vital role" in encouraging young people to see "that aspiration and ambition can be fulfilled regardless of disability or impairment".
Dame Sarah Storey, the most decorated female British Paralympian in history, told BuzzFeed News she was "really surprised and overwhelmed" to top the list.
Storey, 39, who has won 14 gold, eight silver, and three bronze medals in the course of a 20-year career, said individuals with disabilities were still sometimes overlooked. Storey said although there was more opportunity, "that doesn't mean all the obstacles have been removed or enough empathy created to understand all circumstances with regards to disability, impairment and health conditions".
"I hope my achievements will provide inspiration and motivation to others," she said, "and show that a disability or impairment should not be a barrier to success."
The publication of the list comes a day before the United Nations International Day of Persons With Disabilities, and during a period when many people with disabilities find themselves disadvantaged by proposed government cuts to their support.
Baroness Celia Thomas of Winchester, who was included in the list for the first time, said she was "honoured to be included in such august company”, especially when the visibility of the disabled community was more important than ever.
“Anything that heightens the profile of disabled people making a difference in life is a very good thing," she told BuzzFeed News. "I feel as though since the really big push over 20 years ago to put disability rights on the agenda we have been slipping back a bit.”
Thomas, 71, who is currently chairing a committee in the House of Lords examining how disability rights have fared, said the committee had “found that life was actually getting worse rather than better for a lot of disabled people”.
She continued that it was particularly important to highlight the work the disabled community can achieve, should the right support be in place.
Thomas, who has limb girdle muscular dystrophy, called on the government to do more to further disabled people in the workplace and fulfil the government pledge to halve the number of unemployed disabled people.
Martyn Sibley, a disability rights blogger who has spinal muscular atrophy, said he was "extremely happy and proud" to be on the list – and that it had been "quite the week!".
Sibley told BuzzFeed News that for him the list was politically important: "With the cuts and ignoring parts of the UN convention the past years have been tough.
"Let's hope the government recognise the far reaching benefits of investing in disabled people and indeed for anyone in society needing a hand."
The 33-year-old said disabled people "have been portrayed as victims or [having] triumphed over tragedy" for too many years: "This list is important to show society we are all capable of achievement in every part of society."
He said he hoped the list would inspire the "next generation of disabled people" to "aim higher than ever before".
Evelyn Glennie, 51, a deaf percussionist who in 2012 led part of the UK's Olympic opening ceremony, said the diversity of the list was great, especially as it might open people up to what could be possible for them.
"I think to be perfectly honest," she told BuzzFeed News, "there are always challenges of one sort or another, for all individuals, [but] it just seems as though everything has come at once at the moment."
But the Grammy-winning artist was optimistic: "I feel despite the cuts, and the doom and gloom that seems to happen, it falls away and the mind will cut through."
She continued: "There are so many people out there who deserve to be on the list. It’s hard really to chose who should be on there." She exhorted people to "keep pushing the boundaries – that’s what I quite enjoying doing!”
Rose Troup Buchanan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Rose Troup Buchanan at Rose.Buchanan@BuzzFeed.com.
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