Asking Asif Iqbal MBE, President of Harrow United Deaf Club, for his initial reaction at the news of being one of the top 10, he said how he was pleasantly surprised by the list, given the high calibre of influential people that the list were drawn from hundreds of disabled people to the top ten of each category.
“The list is a powerful way to demonstrate and reinforce the message that disabled people can achieve/ aim higher and break the glass ceiling. I have known so many people named on the list and many more not listed, they are all inspirational.”
He added: “It’s good to be recognised as a key figure in public services and encourage people to contribute/ influence for better change, making a difference to the local or national communities.”
About the List: Who are the disabled people who have the most significant impact on the way we live today?
Well over a year after Disability News Service began the process of finding the UK’s most influential disabled people, we are finally ready to publish those 100 names.
The idea, of course, was to rank disabled people in terms of their current influence. Or, to put it another way, to compare the effect they have on society, on how we think and feel, on how we live, and on how we are governed. On the products and services we buy, the films and television programmes we watch, the political parties we vote for, the books we read, the campaigns we support, and the protests we attend.
There has been a lot of fine-tuning since DNS published a draft version in April 2013, including plenty of feedback, some of it from disabled people who disliked the idea of ranking one activist or pioneer against another and found the concept divisive and unhelpful, while others spotted flaws in the methodology.
The draft list ballooned to more than 250 names, and the difficulty of comparing Paralympians with artists with activists with politicians became more and more obvious. Often, it seemed like asking whether a tiger was better than a watermelon.
Several readers of the draft list suggested splitting the names into categories – sport, arts, media, etc – to make it more likely that it would compare like with like. So that’s what I did, coming up with 10 categories that appeared to offer everyone a potential resting place.
It was also clear that DNS needed to enlist the help of other disabled people with expertise in those 10 categories, to assist with the final ranking process. About a dozen people agreed to help, and I am extremely grateful to them. Because all but two wanted their help to remain uncredited, I decided to keep all of them anonymous. Much better for DNS to act as a lightning rod for any criticism. The final decisions were mine, at least for this first year.
The 10 categories I chose were: academia/research; activism/campaigning/voluntary sector; arts; business; entertainment; equality/consultancy/access; media; politics; public service; and sport. For those who are influential in more than one area – as many are – they have been placed in the category in which they appear to have most impact.
The process is still far from perfect, and some of the panellists certainly believe the process could be improved further in future years. I agree.
For each category, in addition to the top 10, I have included an alphabetical list of those who nearly made it onto The List, those on the fringes who have too much talent to leave out completely. Even so, I am certain that I have left many influential disabled people out. I hope that these omissions will be corrected in future years.
With some of the categories, it was harder to determine who had true influence – people who are listened to, rather than just heard. Activism and campaigning – where so much is done behind the scenes, often from a bed or a couch, or behind George Osborne’s infamous drawn curtains – is one of those areas. Others are easier. With business, you can look at profits, employees, and turnover, while entertainers can be judged at least partly by their viewing and cinema figures, audience numbers, and Twitter followers.
I hope The List will spark discussion among disabled people about those who are on it, and those who are not.
I also hope that these names will eventually seep into the mainstream and act as a database of disabled talent, and provide role models for the next generation of disabled influencers.
We are living through a period when many disabled people feel under attack – from the media, from politicians and from wider society – so I hope The List will remind some of those doing the attacking of how much we contribute to society. It would be refreshing to see disabled people being written about as the influencers and contributors to society that they are, rather than as ‘spongers’, ‘scroungers’ and ‘benefit cheats’.
Here, then, are the top 10 disabled people in public service. Tomorrow, it will be the final part of The List, with the 10 most influential disabled people in sport. The names will be added to the Influence page on the DNS site.
I hope The List will provide a resource for those seeking evidence of how many disabled people there are in Britain today with talent, reach and influence… and yes, even power.
John Pring, Editor, Disability News Service
Source: The Disability News Services, 7th-15th July 2014