We were thrilled to welcome eight of our Learning Disability and Autism Leaders to the judging panel for the Leaders’ List 2021! They helped choose our final winners.
Every year, our Leaders’ List honours the remarkable accomplishments of people with learning disabilities and autism. Categories range across arts, sports, entertainment, work and advocacy.
We recognise that everyone has a unique story to tell and everyone deserves to be acknowledged. This is why all entrants received a certificate and the winners will have their stories shared across the nation!
Winners are chosen by a panel of expert judges, all of whom have a learning disability and/or autism themselves. All our judges are previous Leaders and they’re very excited to read the Finalists’ stories.
About our partner, VODG
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.
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.
About our partner, Learning Disability England
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.
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
Let’s get to know our wonderful judges!
Emily Anne Morse
Emily was diagnosed with autism in her early adolescence and suffers from daily episodes of anxiety and depression. Her diagnosis has instilled in her a strong desire to spread the word and educate others about what this entails, as well as how they may help and be less discriminatory.
Since winning a Leaders’ List award in 2020, Emily has continued to support young people and co delivered webinars to various organisations, which involved raising awareness and acceptance for autism. She has also given a whole school assembly on autism.
Furthermore, she has completed her A level exams with flying colours and started university.
“It feels amazing being able to be a judge this year. Never in a million years did I think that I would win one of the awards let alone play a role in the process a year later. I am looking forward to see people doing what they love and the joy that comes with this.”
Jemma is delighted to join our judging panel this year, having won two Leaders’ List awards in the categories of Work and Education and Art and Talent in 2019 and 2020, respectively. She works for Northern Ballet and is the first person with autism to perform her role in the organisation, as well as the first to lead their own creative endeavour.
Along with her dance and her art, she is passionate about raising awareness of the difficulties faced by people with learning disabilities and the need of fair treatment.
Jemma has had a lot of interesting things happen since she won the Leaders’ List awards.
Says Jemma, “My work gave me my very own project, a commission working with dancers across the North to create an animation for their Expressions platform. The film can be watched on Northern Ballet’s website
I also became an associate artist with a local art gallery. I have loved meeting other artists, seeing and learning about their work first hand. It has given me so much confidence to be chosen, but also to be treated as an equal alongside all the other artists they work with.”
We asked Jemma how it feels to be a judge:
“I am so excited to be joining as a judge this year. I always love reading the stories and learning about all the many ways in which people can and have made a difference. I love that every story received and person behind it is celebrated. The pandemic has been such a difficult time, but still there are so many good people doing good things for themselves and others which gives us hope. The Leaders’ list serves as a great example of that.”
Jessie Carter Kay
Jessie is the driving force behind Pulp Friction, a social enterprise that helps people with learning disabilities and/or autism to be more independent and develop their work and social skills.
Jessie loves to help others and create new acquaintances, but her words might be difficult to comprehend at times. She’s been patronised, infantilised, and disregarded as a result of this.
But Jessie is a strong lady who doesn’t accept discrimination, whether it is directed towards her or others. That’s why she co-founded the Pulp Friction Smoothie Bar Project with her mother, Jill to help others in becoming more self-sufficient.
We are delighted to have Jonathan Andrews who joins our judging panel this year after winning a Leaders’ List award in 2018. He won under the Advocacy, policy and the media category for his extraordinary work.
Back in 2018, the only junior employee recognised in Reed Smith’s talent spotlight, he founded Bauer Media’s Diversity and Inclusion board while on secondment at the media company, chairing its disability sub-committee. Speaking to 20,000+ nationally, mostly senior directors/recruiters with power to increase autism employment, Jonathan has authored toolkits featuring diverse autistic employment experiences, including people with learning disabilities.
“It’s a great honour to be asked to serve as a judge of the 2021 Learning Disability and Autism Leaders List, and I’m really excited to read about all the great work being done by people across the UK. Becoming a 2018 leader was really helpful in supporting my employment campaigning work, and I’ve since qualified as a solicitor, been named as the Law Society’s Junior Lawyer of the Year, and been announced as Britain’s fourth most influential disabled person by the Shaw Trust 2020 – so I understand the importance of the recognition this brings and of supporting others to achieve their ambitions.”
Kumudu Perera has kindly agreed to join this year’s expert judging panel after winning our Coronavirus Learning Disability and Autism Leaders List award last year.
Kumudu is a true volunteer at heart and is proud of his learning disability. He had to put his many voluntary initiatives on hold when lockdown began. But that certainly didn’t mean he stopped volunteering! He looked for other ways to help people and joined My Life My Choice’s ‘Phone Buddies’ project.
Dr Mark Brookes MBE
Mark takes people’s stories and experiences into places they wouldn’t normally go. He is being vocal about how people are mistreated and abused simply because they have learning disabilities.
People with Mark’s background confront significant obstacles in living a normal life, much alone having the chance to showcase and inspire others with their unique qualities and skills. Mark has encountered significant personal difficulties in his life, to the point that he has relied on and trusted only himself at times.
Mark strives to overcome this emotion and uses his experiences to reach out to others, reassuring them that they are not alone in this challenging environment.
Since being named a Leader, Mark has been awarded with an Honorary Doctorate and an MBE, and is on the Shaw Trust Disability Power List.
Rosa, a strong and brave little girl, has been working with Circus Starr to make the circus more accessible, overcoming many personal obstacles along the way.
Rosa’s role as a Sensory-being Project consultant was to co-produce and trial a sensory social story about what it’s like to go to the circus. She did it so she could show other people what it’s like to go to the circus and how it tastes, sounds, and smells.
Says Rosa’s mother:
“We have had so much fun at home in our garden where we made our own festivals and outdoor cinema during lockdown, she enjoyed home schooling, especially helping her little brother with his maths! She has also loved spending time in the new hot tub!
“Since restrictions eased we have been back enjoying the circus and live theatre around the county. Rosa loves the excitement of live performance and especially loves sharing it with her family and friends. She has been so pleased to be able to go back to school lately and hopes to be involved with The Sensory Projects again soon.”
Thomas Henley delightfully joins our judging panel this year after winning a Coronavirus Leaders’ List award in 2020. He won under the Action and Activities category for his amazing work.
Thomas is a 23-year-old autism advocate, online content creator, Biomedical Sciences honours graduate, special needs Teaching Assistant and, remarkably, a former Commonwealth Champion in Taekwondo.
Lockdown was a difficult period for him as he was furloughed like so many others. Thomas, on the other hand, rose to the occasion and is making a significant impact with the opportunities lockdown offered him.
Creating the ‘Aspergers In Society’ documentary and engaging with the mainstream media, Thomas seeks to better integrate autistic people and act as a strong role model for others.
Share the Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List 2021
This is a sector award and we encourage other organisations, groups and individuals to share it so even more inspirational people have the opportunity to be celebrated.
Please tag @DimensionsUK and use #LDALeadersList to share this page and help more people with learning disabilities and/or autism to be recognised and appreciated for their brilliant work.