The 10 most influential disabled people of 2023
The top ten influential disabled people have been announced as part of the Disability Power 100 list which celebrates individuals who have made outstanding achievements over the past twelve months.
Compiled by The Shaw Trust Foundation the annual event recognises those in the disabled community improving the lives for thousands of people living with a physical or learning disability in a number of sectors including media, sport, law and entertainment.
Sara Allen, from the Shaw Trust, told Mirror Online: “Our mission is to help people into good work. The sort of work we all want to do, but we know that if you are disabled you have fewer opportunities for good work – whether that is because workplaces are inaccessible, no flexibility in the hours or shift patterns, or simply because there is a complex online application form.
"A fifth of the UK’s population has a disability or impairment, however, there is very little recognition of successful and influential disabled people. Disabled people are more likely to be unemployed, and the gap is widening, and until we change the public perception of disability, to recognise strong, successful, influential people who are leaders in their field, this gap will continue.”
The top ten most influential disabled people of 2023 are…
10. Martin Hibbert
Martin was watching Ariana Grande at Manchester Arena on 22nd May 2017, before the concert finished his life would change forever.
The now 47-year-old was involved in one of the most brutal, cowardly terrorist attacks the UK has ever witnessed, 22 people lost their lives, 1,017 injured.
Hibbert was left paralysed from the waist down in the explosion, but his new life didn’t just bring courage, it also inspired him to raise thousands of pounds for good causes and advocating for disabled rights.
9. Simon Sansome
Simon walked into hospital for surgery, but after going under the knife he would never walk again.
The procedure went wrong, leaving the 32-year-old paralysed from the waist down and having no option but to leave his job.
After visiting a restaurant with his wife and being told there were no accessible facilities, he launched the Ability Access blog and Facebook group giving disabled people the opportunity to share similar stories.
In its first year he won the Jesse Jackson Prize, the project now reaches over 20 million people a month.
Simon presents his own podcast, blog and writes for a number of TV shows.
8. Celestine Fraser
Writer, filmmaker and founder of disability media company Just Copy which helps disabled people improve their communication skills, Celestine has already had an inspiring career.
She has also picked up awards for two films for the BBC and BFI, “ill actually” and “BETTER”, giving advice to disabled people as they come to terms with their identity.
Celestine is also a member of the BFI Disability Advisory Screen Group and Press Reset campaign calling on the media to provide a wider representation of disabled people in film and TV.
7. John McFall
Being involved in a serious motorcycle accident did not hold John back. Despite losing his leg, after being fitted with a prosthetic he turned to the safer route becoming a para-athlete.
For most, that would be enough. In 2008 he won Bronze in the 100 metres [T42] at the Summer Paralympics in Beijing, but he had bigger goals on the horizon.
Earlier this year John was named as the world’s first ‘paraastronaut’ by the European Space Agency.
6. Amy Francis-Smith RIBA
Amy's passion is supporting disabled people finding accessible housing and accommodation, something very close to her heart.
Working with Architectural schools and organisations across the UK she raises awareness around the barriers disabled people face as well as offering possible solutions.
5. Pam Duncan-Glancy MSP
Pam was the first wheelchair member of parliament in the Scottish Government. Since 2021 she has represented the Glasgow area.
She was denied access to the vote count of the election she was running for because of the lack of access available at the venue, but that only made her campaign more for equal rights.
The Scottish Labour shadow secretary for Education and Skills is behind the Young Disabled People’s Transition to Adulthood Bill improving opportunities for people under the age of 18.
4. Professor Jason Arday
It took Jason eighteen years to learn to read and write, having autism doesn’t make such tasks come easy, but once he cracked it there was no stop in him.
Earlier this year he became the first black professor at Cambridge Uni proving those ‘experts’ wrong who once told him he would need lifelong support.
Jason has two master’s degrees, a PHD in educational studies, a qualified PE teacher and is just one of five professors at the renowned university.
3. Rosie Jones
We guess you know Rosie by now, the stand-up comedian makes numerous appearances on TV laughing in the face of her cerebral palsy.
But her creative skills don’t just lie in front of the camera, behind the scenes she has written for popular Channel 4 shows 8 Out of Ten Cats and The Last Leg.
Rosie is a regular at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, a podcast host and even found time to write her first children’s book ‘The Amazing Edie Eckhart’ based on real-life experiences as her younger self.
2. Victoria Jones
Inspired by an encounter with a cancer patient who could not find suitable clothing, Victoria launched her own accessible fashion brand, Unhidden.
She acquired a disability in her 20s, giving her the drive to build an ever growing career working with established household labels and impressing the dragons on BBC’s Dragon Den.
Victoria has also published her own book ‘The Little Book of Ableisms’.
1. Dr Shani Dhanda
Award winning disability activist? Tick. Music promoter? Tick. TV personality? Shani has done them all which is why she deservedly tops this year’s Power 100 list.
With regular appearances on Loose Women and Rip Off Britain, founder of the Asian Disability Network and the organiser of the Asian Woman Festival you would think there is no new ground to cover; well you would be wrong, she also launched the Diversability discount card helping disabled people with their daily living.
In September Shani was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Wolverhampton and continues to raise awareness around Brittle Bone disease, a condition which has never held her back.
[ For the full list of the Power 100 visit the Shaw Trust website ]