Pictured left to right: Brian Scott, Isla McIntosh, Tressa Burke and Marianne Scobie from the Glasgow Disability Alliance at the National Diversity Awards 2016

Actor and Comedian Richard Blackwood and ITV News Presenter Charlene White united to host the National Diversity Awards on September 16, 2016. Role models and charities were honoured nationwide at Friday’s ceremony at the breath-taking Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, rewarding Britain’s most inspirational people for their fight against inequality.

Community heroes from across the UK gathered in the bustling city of Liverpool to celebrate the outstanding achievements of those who have demonstrated exceptional devotion to diversity, equality and inclusion.

Shortlisted from 600 nominations, Glasgow Disability Alliance beat seven others in the running for the Disability Organisation Award category.

Glasgow Disability Alliance was set up 15 years ago by disabled people who were frustrated with their voices being excluded from crucial decisions about their services and communities. Determined to address the glaring absence of disabled people from communities, public life and leadership roles, the group established a community of peer support that would build disabled people’s voices, confidence, connections and influence within the community. Building on seed-corn funds from Glasgow City Council, GDA secured their first Big Lottery grant in 2006. With 2 paid staff and 50 members GDA developed a programme of learning, peer support and engagement to achieve their vision of disabled people’s full and equal participation in their own lives, families, workplaces, communities and wider society. Now, thanks to multiple funders, GDA has 11 staff and over 3500 individual disabled members and counting – making it one of the largest Disabled People’s Organisations (DPO) in the UK. Through GDA, members work closely with Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government to influence policy at all levels, while supporting each other to have choice, control, ambition and to fulfil their potential. GDA recognises that disability may be only one part of a person’s identity and so works in partnership with other equality groups and networks, including LGBT Youth Scotland, Equality Network,  BME and Women’s Voluntary Sector Network and Glasgow Equality Forum.

Tressa Burke, CEO of Glasgow Disability Alliance, said:

“On behalf of our 3500 disabled members, GDA is privileged to win the community award for disability. So many wonderful organisations were nominated and are doing amazing work around Scotland and the UK to tackle inequality, exclusion and injustice. Disabled people are disproportionately affected by welfare reforms, poverty and poor health outcomes and Glasgow has the biggest number of disabled people in Scotland at 1 in 4 of our population.  It was fantastic for GDA’s passion, commitment and impact in changing the lives of disabled people to be recognised. We believe that with confidence, connections and the right support, disabled people can achieve anything and our lives can be amazing and this award recognises the contributions that disabled people make. We also received the award in honour of one of our founder members Maureen McPeak who died suddenly the previous week and who was both an outstanding ambassador and role model for disabled people’s equality and human rights.”

A record 20,000 nominations and votes were received this year, paying tribute to grassroots communities across the UK. Over 600 organisations were nominated in the Disability Organisation category, so for a small local organisation to win such an award is outstanding. Among those also shortlisted were Edinburgh-based Scottish Women’s Autism Network (SWAN), and the Liverpool Signing Choir who, having performed at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, wowed Friday’s audience with performances of popular and classic hits like John Lennon’s Imagine.

Opening the ceremony, NDA’s founder Paul Sesay, said:

“The grassroots organisations that The National Diversity Awards recognise are pioneering amazing initiatives on equality diversity and inclusion; and we need to promote, empower, profile and acknowledge their extraordinary achievements.” He was followed by David Isaac CBE, newly appointed Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission who shared his vision for what he hopes to achieve in his new role. GDA’s award was presented by the UK’s leading disabled fashion model Kelly Knox. Comedian and disability activist Sally Phillips presented the award for Positive Role Model for Disability, to Aston Avery for his achievements in theatre and dance.

Returning from the Rio Paralympics with two Gold Medals in tow, British Cyclist Jody Cundy said ”I am proud to be supporting The National Diversity Awards – a fantastic celebration of the achievements that would often go unnoticed, but ultimately have enhanced today’s culturally diverse society, bringing together and creating role models from all walks of life!”.

The full list of winners is as follows:

Positive Role Model for Age: Sajid Rashid BEM

Positive Role Model for Disability: Aston Avery

Positive Role Model for Gender: Dr. Sylvia Forchap-Likambi

Positive Role Model for LGBT: Moira Smyth

Positive Role Model for Race, Faith & Religion: Keesha Edwards

Community Organisation Award for Age: AIM Academy

Community Organisation Award for Disability: Glasgow Disability Alliance 

Community Organisation Award for Gender: Women4Africa

Community Organisation Award for LGBT: Mermaids

Community Organisation Award for Race, Faith & Religion: Black Cultural Archives

Community Organisation Award for Multi-strand: Victory Hants

Entrepreneur of Excellence: Neomi Bennett

Celebrity of the Year: Annie Wallace

Diverse Company: Channel 4

Lifetime Achiever: Qaisra Shahraz

Find out more about the Glasgow Disability Alliance at www.gdaonline.co.uk.