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2021 disability news round-up

2021 has been quite a year, with plenty of highs and lows to go along with it. As we wrap up another 365 days, it’s worth looking back on the positive stories that have hit the news this year.


World’s first adaptive deodorant unveiled

In collaboration with designer Christina Mallon and Degree Inclusive, Unilever unveiled the world’s first adaptive deodorant for visually impaired people and people with upper limb motor disabilities. The product has a hooked design so it can be used one-handed, with magnetic closures for easier grip. It also features a label in braille with instructions for use for the visually impaired. The designers hope it will set a standard for the rest of the industry and can encourage other companies to expand products for disabled customers.

Paralysed man walks for the NHS

Following a successful walk of the London Marathon in 2018 using an exoskeleton (in which he holds the World Record for the fastest man to do so), Simon Kindleysides from Norwich walked throughout February 2021 to raise money for the NHS. Walking 125 miles in the month, Kindleysides, who was paralyzed from the waist down due to a stroke, did it to support his local hospital and NHS, who were on the frontlines of the pandemic.


Glory at the Paralympic Games

Tokyo 2021. 124 medals in all, 41 golds – and a second place on the medal table behind China. This summer’s Olympics were a fantastic show for Team GB and a true demonstrator of the Paralympic talent in this country. Some of the biggest highlights include Dame Sarah Storey’s three cycling Golds, making her the most successful British Paralympian of all time, swimmer Reece Dunn, also with three Golds, and triathlete Lauren Steadman achieving her first Gold in the sport.

Kellogg’s develops new packaging design for blind and visually impaired people

In a world’s first, Kellogg’s will adapt their cereal boxes to make them accessible for the blind and visually impaired. The boxes will require a smartphone to detect a code, that can then read labels and nutritional information, including about allergens. Called NaviLens, it utilises built-in accessibility technology on smartphones and is due to be rolled out in January 2022 on boxes of Special K.


Rose Ayling-Ellis makes Strictly history

Partnered with professional Giovanni Pernice, Rose Ayling-Ellis is the show’s first deaf contestant and has shown the world that her deafness doesn’t stop her dancing. From scoring a perfect 40 in Halloween Week to a masterful Contemporary dance where the music stopped part-way through, mimicking her experience on the dancefloor, she’s hotly tipped to reach this year’s final. And her impact isn’t just on the dance floor; the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) reported a 71% increase in searches for BSL (British Sign Language) information from October to December.

France celebrates its first public official with Downs Syndrome

The town of Arras in Northern France elected Elenore Laloux in 2020, making her France’s first elected public official in history. A municipal councillor for her town, she campaigns for the rights of disabled individuals and improving accessibility and understanding for those with all kinds of disabilities. In 2021, she was awarded the National Order of Merit, the second-highest civilian honour in France, for her dedication to making the beautiful town of Arras – and France – more accessible for disabled people.

13-year-old sworn into Welsh Youth Senedd

Following its second-ever election, the Welsh Youth Senedd has welcomed its first Member with a life-long condition. Thirteen-year-old Seth Burke, who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, will represent Ty Hafan Children’s Hospice until 2023. A wheelchair user since lockdown began, Burke aims to be a voice for other disabled young people, hoping to create a more accepting and compassionate country for others like him. He will officially take his Senedd seat in 2022, alongside 59 other newly elected officials representing young people across Wales.

Jack Thorne launches new pressure group in Film & TV

Rose d’Or, Tony and BAFTA-award winning writer Jack Thorne has launched a brand new pressure group alongside Genevieve Barr, Katie Player and Holly Luban to advocate for better disabled representation and accessibility in the film and television industries. Underlying Health Conditions (UHC) produced a report damning the British industry for its lack of accessibility options, but hopes it can use its new position to improve working conditions in UK TV. It also aims to increase the number of disabled individuals working in the entertainment industry, both behind and in front of the camera.

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