Honour for tireless campaigner spreading equality for disabled

Richard Rieser is recognised with a gong in the Queen’s Birthday Honours

Friday, 18th June 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Richard Rieser

Richard Rieser has been awarded an OBE

A CAMPAIGNER who has travelled the globe working on equality for disabled people has been recognised with a gong in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Richard Rieser, who lives in Newington Green, was awarded an OBE after helping to train people to see the changes that are needed.

“In many places around the world, there are real efforts to become more inclusive,” said Mr Rieser.

“But in terms of the physical infrastructure, we still have a huge way to go. People put ramps into their buildings, but they don’t think of all the other issues.”

He added: “Unless we have a means of actually giving a liberation strategy to disabled people so that they don’t blame themselves for the position they’re in – that means actually overcoming the barriers that they face so they can actually get on with a decent life – then not much will change.”

Mr Rieser, who relies on crutches after contracting polio as a child, started his career teaching in Hackney.

He is now the chief executive of the World of Inclusion and general secretary of the Commonwealth Disabled People’s Forum.

There are currently 14 million people registered living with a disability in the UK but Mr Rieser said the number is more likely to be double when counting mental health issues.

“At least half of the disabled people in the UK have hidden impairments that can affect all sorts of people,” he said.

“There are people with diabetes, autism, ADHD and people with mental health issues.

“These are all counted as disabled people. Mental health is a subsection of disability.”

Mr Rieser said he carefully considered the history and politics connected to the Order of British Empire award before accepting it.

He said: “I had to think several times about whether to accept it because the empire were purveyors of racism and many other inhuman human rights abuses.

“I would obviously argue it should be changed into a medal of excellence or something so it was less connected to the past. But I am pleased to have the work acknowledged, not just for myself but also for all the people I work with.”

Mr Rieser added: “I’ve been working for 25 years in the field and not had any acknowledgement, which surprised me a ­little bit.

“It’s not the thing itself, it’s the recognition I would say is the important thing.

“If you don’t accept this sort of award, there’s no other means of recognition.”

Penny Barratt, chief executive of the Bridge London Trust running special schools in Islington was also awarded an OBE in the honours announced on Friday evening.

She said she felt “quite shell shocked” but it was recognition for her whole team.

Medal for crisis hero

Katy Porter

A CHARITY worker who set up a food distribution hub during the coronavirus crisis has been given the British Empire Medal.

Katy Porter, chief executive of the Manor Gardens Welfare Trust, based off Hornsey Road, said the award had come as a “complete surprise”.

She said: “I’m very proud of everything the dedicated staff and volunteers have been able to achieve when we were needed most.”

Manor Gardens distributed food parcels to 1,500 people, including 680 children.

More recently, the charity’s volunteers have helped with the coronavirus vaccination rollout.

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