Prior to my nomination I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of the Disability Power 100 List which is the brainchild of the Shaw Trust. I was approached via social media by a Facebook friend who I have never met in person informing me of the initiative. He offered to support my nomination and, not one to turn down the opportunity to enter in to a competitive process which might lead to some kind of recognition, I agreed.
This was around March as I recall. I thought nothing of it until I got an email in August informing me that I had made the top 100 most influential disabled people in the UK. I was completely shocked. I know that the process is extremely competitive and the judging is carried out by an independent panel.
However, I had to wait over a month before the top 100 were announced at a ceremony planned for late September. As September came and went I wondered when it was happening. Then, at the beginning of October my invite got emailed to me and I read that the event was taking place at the House of Lords. Now, I’d never been to the HOL. When I told Walt, my Guide Dog, he woofed with joy!
I asked one of my younger brother’s Shazib to provide me with support on the day as Mary my wife couldn’t get a day off work unfortunately. However, I was delighted that he was able to assist me on the day of 8th October to meet myself and Walt at the train station mid afternoon. After a stop at a Mexican restaurant on the Embankment for some Mexican Street food (we obviously weren’t in Mexico nor were we on the street). The food was absolutely delicious. We then left to find a café to fill our already bloated bellies. The invite did mention “afternoon tea” at the HOL but I didn’t think there was much chance of tucking in to even more food for me.
Shazib, Walt and I tried to find a café near the House of Lords. All the cafes seemed very busy and there was no seating available anywhere. So, Shazib discovered that the Supreme Court, of all places, had a café and it was open to the public. As we went in and through all the security checks, I asked the chap on security whether Walt needed to take his harness off when going through the metal detector. He replied,
“No, I think we can trust that the dog doesn’t have any bad intentions.”
I laughed out loud. True Walt hasn’t shown any signs of extremist leanings or ill intent yet. As we went down to the café we noticed that there was pretty much no one, bar one customer, sitting in a rather large cafeteria. However, after tasting the tea I understood why.
We then left at 3 pm to ensure we queued up to get through the HOL security. With the Extinguish Rebellion protesting outside Number 10 it was rather busy around that whole area and the queue to enter the HOL was very long. With a lot of people to process it was a good job Shazib and I got to the HOL with plenty of time to spare. However, many of the non-ambient and wheelchair users invited to the ceremony were struggling to get through.
Once in and sat down in the Cholmondeley Room with a beautiful view of the Thames (which obviously I couldn’t see) behind us we were offered Champaign and food. Well, I wasn’t hungry but, you only maybe get once in a lifetime chance of being invited to the HOL so I felt I had to eat something. Shazib fetched me a Victoria Sponge cake that I ate while waiting for the various speeches.
A number of speeches then took place by the Chief Executive and Chair of the Shaw Trust. The excitement mounted as we awaited the top 10 most influential disabled people in the UK. Unsurprisingly I wasn’t among the top 10 and neither was I expecting to be. As I said to just have made the top 100 was just brilliant. Looking at the top ten I can absolutely understand why I didn’t make it. However, I have only just (3 days later) checked where I am on the list and I am included as number 22! That is just utterly amazing.
We were very well looked after by the HOL staff who provided Walt with some water. It was rather warm (the room was actually quite small to accommodate over 100 people.
We picked up some of the Power list glossy magazines and were asked to leave promptly at 5 pm when the event ended. As we left the House of Lords and were only 10 meters away, walking towards the tube station a woman walked past me. Suddenly I heard her exclaim,
She came back towards me. She apologised again and explained that her handbag had caught on Walt’s harness and was being pulled off her shoulder!
I swear that isn’t part of the training that GDA give their Guide Dogs. Maybe his intentions aren’t all that benevolent after all!
If you want more information about the Disability Power list 100 2019 then please click on the link below.