Meet our partners and judges

The Coronavirus Learning Disability and Autism Leaders' List is run by Dimensions and we work with lots of different people. Meet our celebrity ambassador, partners and judges. Click 'Read bio' to read their biography.

About our celebrity ambassador and judge, Liam Bairstow

Liam originally recorded this video for the Learning Disability and Autism Leaders' List but he has kindly agreed to support and judge the Coronavirus Learning Disability and Autism Leaders' List:
“The coronavirus pandemic has impacted lives of everyone in ways that, only a few months ago, would be difficult to imagine. For many people with learning disabilities and autism, the pandemic has been a period of anxiety and uncertainty, as our daily routines changed beyond recognition. “And yet, it has also been a time of people persevering, coming together and looking after each other. It’s wonderful that Dimensions' special Coronavirus Leaders’ List celebrates those stories of everyday strength and resilience in this extraordinary time. “I’ve been inspired by everyone who made it onto this historic List, and I look forward to following each person’s journey.”
You can follow him on Twitter @BairstowLiam [embed]https://youtu.be/DutsfLmf4gw[/embed]

About our partner, VODG

vodg.org.uk | Twitter logo VODGMembership

VODG logo

VODG (Voluntary Organisations Disability Group) is a national charity that represents leading not-for-profit organisations who provide services to disabled people in ways that promote independence, choice and control.

[showhide type="type1" more_text="Show more" less_text="Show less"] We work on behalf of members to influence the development of social care policy, build relationships with government and other key agencies, promote best practice and keep members up to date on matters that affect service delivery. Our overarching aim is to ensure that VODG members, working in partnership with commissioners, people who use services and their families can provide progressive, high quality and sustainable services that reflect Think Local, Act Personal principles, uphold rights and meet the requirements of disabled people. VODG members lead the sector in terms of delivering high quality personalised support, developing new and innovative services and making investments in campaigns, workforce and other activities for social benefit. [/showhide]

About our partner, Learning Disability England

learningdisabilityengland.org.uk | Twitter logo LearningDisEng Learning Disability England logo Learning Disability England exists to make life better with people with Learning Disabilities and their families. We are a not for profit membership organisation bringing together people with learning disabilities, families, professionals and organisations. [showhide type="type2" more_text="Show more" less_text="Show less"] Membership is open to any person, organisation or group that supports Learning Disability England’s aims and wants to be part of making them happen. The aims are:
  • What is important to people with Learning Disabilities is heard and understood
  • There is a change in behaviour in service design and delivery that builds on rights
  • Demonstrate coproduction and real collaborative working making a difference
  • Live our values and model the change we want
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Meet some of our judges

Azrab Mohammed

Changing Communities Leader 2018 Azrab is an activist campaigning for local change that helps people with severe disabilities and anxieties to regain control over their lives... [showhide type="type3" more_text="Show more" less_text="Show less"] He is blind, living with a learning disability, diabetes, and has suffered considerable anxieties. However after a rough time with bullying careers he pulled through and now controls what he eats, where he goes, who with, and when. Azrab is determined to make small changes to everyday lives of disabled people, how they can travel, where they can meet, and mostly how they can support themselves as he does when he efficiently supervises his own life, work and campaign. [/showhide]

James Walker

Local communities Leader 2019 Hi my name is James I am 21 years old and last year was lucky enough to become a learning disability and autism leader 2019. I am very proud to be a leader as I myself am classed PMLD and there is nothing better to me than spreading awareness about what people like me can do and not what we can’t do! [showhide type="type4" more_text="Show more" less_text="Show less"] I share my story often about how I came to have a voice (insert hello mum tobii campaign off youtube ) as this was the moment when I began to express myself in my own words. I take part in Youth Parliament and enjoy having my say. I also enjoy taking up my democratic right to vote myself on polling day as I feel people sometimes do not get the chance to do this themselves. Sharing my story on social media platforms raises awareness that people who have this label of PMLD are so much more than their label and can achieve great things given the right support. Now I am learning to read and write using my eye gaze because it truly is never too late to learn! I have a great sense of humour and to be asked to be a judge for this year is awesome! [/showhide]

Murray Bruce

Advocacy, policy and the media Leader 2019 Murray Bruce is an 18 year old writer and student. Murray has spoken at No 10 Downing Street and his insights are widely used by schools and therapists who quote him as an example of always assuming competence. His poetry has also been featured on BBC Radio... [showhide type="type5" more_text="Show more" less_text="Show less"] Murray has been diagnosed with autism and severe apraxia, and is non-verbal. He hadn’t had any real form of communication until he was 10 when during many assessments while changing school placement, it was discovered that Murray had in fact taught himself to read and write. He was then introduced to typing as a way of speaking his thoughts. This was an incredible moment of unlocking his mind and it soon became a means of teaching others about what it is like first hand to have autism and how it affects him and those like him. Murray advocates through his beautiful poetry and his poignant life observations. He writes with incredible and descriptive insight in his unique style, telling of his daily frustrations of being “silent” and of how he perceives the sensory world many people like him live in. He is a vehement campaigner for changing the minds of those who associate non verbal with non intelligent. Murray is determined that his powerful words will help to contribute to changing the world’s perception of non-verbal people with autism and to see past “the broken body” that he feels he has. “Autism is only a part of me, it does not define me”. Murray is also Autism Ambassador for Horses Helping People in Mentmore, a charity providing therapy for individuals with additional needs. Murray lives in Oxfordshire with his parents and younger sister and brother, 2 dogs and 2 tortoises! His hobbies are the theatre, listening to classical music and travelling. [/showhide]

Joanna Grace

Advocacy, policy and the media Leader 2018 thesensoryprojects.co.uk | Facebook logo The Sensory Projects | Twitter logo @Jo3grace | LinkedIn Logo Joanna Grace Joanna Grace is a Sensory Engagement and Inclusion Specialist, Author, Trainer, TEDx Speaker and founder of The Sensory Projects, she is also Autistic. Inclusion lies at heart of Joanna’s convictions and work. Jo was drawn to working with people with profound and multiple learning disabilities because of the creative and cognitive challenges involved in understanding their unique perspective of the world... [showhide type="type6" more_text="Show more" less_text="Show less"] Joanna Grace is a Sensory Engagement and Inclusion Specialist, Author, Trainer, TEDx Speaker and founder of The Sensory Projects, she is also Autistic. Inclusion lies at heart of Joanna’s convictions and work. Jo was drawn to working with people with profound and multiple learning disabilities because of the creative and cognitive challenges involved in understanding their unique perspective of the world. Joanna has enormous respect for their non-verbal communication, and for their capacity to find joy in pure connection with the current moment. Joanna founded and runs The Sensory Projects. Through the projects she seeks to contribute to a future where people are understood in spite of their differences. Each of the projects does this by demonstrating the knowledge and creativity needed to use inexpensive resources as effective sensory tools for inclusion. The Sensory Projects began as a single project: The Sensory Story Project; a Kickstarter campaign. From that first project have grown a further four. Joanna has had seven books published and The Sensory Projects has published over twenty sensory stories. Joanna provides training internationally and supports families and individuals from a day old to octogenarians. The Sensory Projects continues to grow and expand in its capacity to support people. The Projects are a place where Joanna’s autism is an asset, not a disability. Joanna co-delivered the first TEDx talk ever to include someone with profound and multiple learning disabilities: Inclusion; For Pity’s Sake? Sharing the stage with Chloe, Joanna demonstrated first-hand the importance and beauty of the spectrum of communication and how every being represents their own experience and perception, unique to them. Joanna is one of four leads on the team which created the Core and Essential Service Standards for Supporting People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities, a document which seeks to raise the bar with regards to what best practice care looks like for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and is already influencing practice globally. [/showhide]

Lynne Elwell

I worked as a photographer until Nicola, the second of my five children became disabled at the age of eight months. I stayed at home to support and educate her and it was through Nicola that I became aware of the attitude towards disabled people. I found that help offered didn’t fit or work for Nicola and finding information was difficult. All I had were my instincts and emotions, I didn’t have any strategies to work in partnership with the people paid to support her, it was very difficult to change things. I decided to learn more. [showhide type="type7" more_text="Show more" less_text="Show less"] Over the past 25 years I have designed, coordinated and supported citizen leadership courses mostly Partners in Policy courses across England, and supported course graduates to run courses in their local communities across the UK. Partners is an innovative leadership training programme for parents of disabled children and disabled adults, designed to educate and empower its participants in order for them to achieve systems change at local and national levels. I have been instrumental in ‘spreading the word’ about the Partners. The course is now running in several different areas in the UK and Europe. Following the success of the Partners course, I was commissioned to design more courses: Kindred Spirits, which was created specifically for Sefton to bring everyone together who loves and supports disabled children; Sharing Knowledge, a course to help people get the information they need to move from childhood to adulthood; All Together Better, a national course bringing together family members with people who work in social care, health, and education. Tomorrow’s Leaders was designed for adults who have learning difficulties - this has made an impact in developing and strengthening the self advocacy movement. We now have over 2.500 graduates from the course who form a rich network across the UK sharing information and helping each other. I have also renewed my interest in photography, working with people who have disabilities to produce positive images of disabled people. [/showhide]

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