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New Year Honours: Recognition for leading disabled figures

A Labour MP has joined campaigners and leading figures from the worlds of sport, media and business among disabled people recognised in the New Year Honours.

Anne Begg, the Labour MP for Aberdeen South, who chairs the Commons work and pensions committee, said she was “shocked” to be made a Dame for services to disabled people and equal opportunities.

She said the honour probably came as a result of her work as vice-chair of the speaker’s conference on parliamentary representation, which reported last January on how to increase the number of disabled, female and minority ethnic MPs.

She said: “I have no idea whether having Dame at the beginning of my name has more clout than MP at the end of my name.”

But she added: “It’s a nice honour and I feel very flattered and humbled to be given it. I will just carry on doing the work I have always been doing. That’s not going to change.”

An OBE was awarded to Kay Sheldon, a Care Quality Commission board member. She was a Mental Health Act Commissioner for 11 years and a former member of the Mental Health Act Commission board.

As a user of mental health services, she has worked to ensure service-users have an “influential voice” in how health and social care is provided and monitored, and said she saw the award “as recognition of the importance of that work”.

Jill Allen-King, who has chaired the environment committee of the National Federation of the Blind of the UK since 1973, also receives an OBE.

She has chaired the European Blind Union’s commission on mobility and transport for 14 years and previously served on the benefits appeals service for 18 years. Her autobiography, Just Jill, was published last year.

A former member of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, she first raised the idea of low-floor buses, colour-contrasted taxis and tactile paving at pedestrian crossings, and continues to campaign against the introduction of “shared street” schemes.

Four-time Paralympian Kevan Baker has been awarded an OBE for his voluntary service to disability sport.

Baker has been chairman of the national wheelchair sports charity WheelPower since 1996 and competed in discus at four Paralympic Games, winning medals at three.

Martin McElhatton, chief executive of WheelPower, said Baker was a “key driver” in the redevelopment of Stoke Mandeville Stadium, and “has a great understanding of the important role sport plays in transforming the lives of young and newly-disabled people”.

Stephen Hallett receives an OBE for his work increasing awareness of disability issues in China and for services to disadvantaged groups.

Hallett taught English at a Beijing university before becoming involved in making TV documentaries, and producing radio programmes for the BBC’s Chinese service.

He later ran media projects for the BBC World Service Trust in China, and now runs the charity China Vision, which aims to make essential information available to visually-impaired people in China.

Among those awarded MBEs was Julia Malkin, one of the most highly-qualified driving instructors in the country. She has devised products to support students and other people with Asperger’s syndrome, and is said to be one of only two driving instructors with autism in Britain.

Alan Murray, whose voluntary work stretches back more than 40 years, receives an MBE for services to Deaf people. Chair of the charity deafPLUS, he is a board member of the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust, and an education consultant.

He said he was “delighted” with the honour as a Deaf British Sign Language-user, and said: “I will continue to work within the Deaf community to raise our status of community, culture and language and for us Deaf people to have equal access to social inclusion.”

An MBE is also awarded to Alexandra Bell, a committee member of Kettering Mencap, who has been involved with the charity for more than 23 years. She was co-chair of Northamptonshire Learning Disability Partnership Board for more than eight years.

Laraine Callow, who receives an MBE, is the director of the Deafworks consultancy. She has worked in the education, employment, commercial and arts fields on deaf issues and deaf access.

An MBE also goes to Paul Davies, for his services to wheelchair rugby. Davies set up the Cardiff Pirates club in 1989, and took over as manager of the GB national team in 1996, with the team winning silver and bronze medals at the European Championships, and qualifying for the 2000 Sydney Paralympics. He later helped set up the GB development squad and the Welsh Wheelchair Rugby Association.

Ray Edwards, who founded and chairs the charity Limbcare, which supports people with limb impairments, also receives an MBE. He is a former chief executive of the Limbless Association.

Ivor Jess receives an MBE for services to disability sport. Disability Sports NI said Jess had made a “massive contribution” to playing, promoting and fundraising for disability sport in Northern Ireland.