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26 Sep 2017
Dundee Stronger Together

Scotland’s first national Learning Disability Awards – run by the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD) – took place on in Learning Disability week.   Prizes were handed out in seven categories at the ceremony at the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow.   It was a glittering night that celebrated the rarely heard stories and achievements of those with learning disabilities and the people who support them.

The Sport Achievement award went to double world record-breaker Fiona Dawson for her success with the South Ayrshire Swim Team Para Squad.During her swimming career, Fiona has won multiple gold and silver medals in the Special Olympics and the European Down’s Syndrome Championships.  Fiona, 36, is also playing a big part in inspiring the stars of the future by training to become a swimming coach.   She said: “I started swimming at a young age and I grew up to  love the water. I have a goal to help others and I’m getting the opportunity to do that now.”

Kirsty Allan, from Airdrie, Lanarkshire, was the winner in the Youth Achievement category. She was nominated after establishing a youth group where members support others in the community.   One of their projects supported Syrian refugees and included a welcome event, with donations, live music and guest speakers from local support organisations.   Kirsty, 26, commits a lot of her time to helping others. She also volunteers for a Parkinson’s disease charity and runs a social media site that keeps people with disabilities up to date with local events.   She said: “I felt excited when my name was called out as the winner of the award. I really enjoy helping other people.”

Ross Johnstone is a medical laboratory assistant at Monklands Hospital in Airdrie and his work there earned him the Employee Recognition prize.  He started out as a Project SEARCH intern and impressed his team so much he was offered a permanent position.  Four years later, Ross is now a supportive mentor to the current group of interns at the hospital.   Only about seven per cent of people with learning disabilities  Iin Scotland are in employment, so Ross is a real role model for those looking to join the workforce.   The 22 year old said: “I feel very proud of myself and my family and the staff at Monklands are proud of me, too. Everyone was shouting, ‘Go Ross!’ when I won the award. It was very overwhelming.”

Helena Horne’s willingness to go the extra mile saw the Paisley-based support practitioner pick up the Exceptional Frontline Worker award.  She helps with everything from transport and money management to healthy eating and socialising for the people she supports – and she does it all with a sense of humour and a smile on her face.   Helena, 45, said: “You just do your job and try to do it well. We support people with their everyday living, such as banking, shopping, personal care and medication.”

Gillian Corbett, from Dumfries, was named Inspirational Family Carer. She cares for her two adult sons, Chris and Stephen, who both have Fragile X Syndrome and live at home.     Gillian, 57, who is also a passionate campaigner for disability rights, said: “There are thousands of carers across Scotland doing a fantastic job and I feel very humble to be considered as somebody worthy of this award.”

Ian Johnston and Abigail Brydon were joint winners of the Creative Achievement prize.    Abigail, from Fife, is an actor and scriptwriter who starred in her first Edinburgh Fringe Festival production last summer.   She’s now working on several performances for her college and local church and has been described as a credit to her craft.  Abigail, 23, said: “It was a real honour to be nominated. Acting is something I enjoy a lot and I like working with other actors and being inspired.”    Ian is a professional dancer from Glasgow who has performances lined up in Chile, Toronto, Rotterdam and Norway.   He also acts as an advocate for people with learning disabilities on the Our Voice group at Sense Scotland.   Ian said: “It felt brilliant to win the award.”


Dundee volunteer Jason Lyon was a winner in the Social Impact category.   Jason has volunteered with the Tayberry Enterprises Sensory Storytelling Project for three years. His work includes developing learning resources, mentoring apprentices and delivering multisensory stories to people of varying abilities. Jason, 37, said: “Winning the award made me feel grateful and happy.  “I’ve now done my own storybook – hopefully everybody loves it.”

Awards host Sally Magnusson said: “I wish the whole of Scotland could have been at the awards to see what people can do when other folk believe in them.” 

SCLD chief Chris Creegan said: “We have witnessed an extraordinary array of talent. A better life for people with learning disabilities is possible but we must raise our expectations and create real opportunities for them.   What these awards demonstrated is that people with learning disabilities have ambition by the bucket-load. We need to match it.”