A research assistant at Kingston University and St George’s, University of London has been shortlisted for the Shaw Trust’s prestigious Disability Power 100, which honours the most influential disabled people in the United Kingdom.
Richard Keagan-Bull, who has learning disabilities, was one of 550 people nominated for the power list – an annual celebration of the UK’s top 100 disabled people working to break the stigma around disability and creating a more accessible and inclusive world for all.
Using his own personal experiences, Mr Keagan-Bull has become a dedicated advocate for people with learning disabilities. He joined People First, an organisation run by and for people with learning disabilities to campaign and speak up for their rights, and has been co-chair of Lambeth Assembly for People with Learning Disabilities for 10 years. He was also Founder Chair of the National Speaking Group for L’Arche and during the pandemic gave encouragement and support to others with learning disabilities through Facebook.
In 2019, Mr Keagan-Bull took part in a pioneering programme by Kingston University and St George’s to help people with learning disabilities become researchers. He passed the eight-week pilot course, the idea of which came from leading learning disability and palliative care expert at the University, Professor Irene Tuffrey-Wijne.
Since completing the course Mr Keagan-Bull (right) has become a research assistant in Professor Tuffrey-Wijne’s team and is currently working with her on a project helping the NHS to tackle health inequalities for people with learning disabilities and autism, as well as an NIHR-funded study focused on supporting older people with learning disabilities and their families to plan ahead for the future.
He was also part of Kingston’s research team who picked up the Innovation Award at this year’s University Alliance awards for its popular webinar series supporting people with learning disabilities during the Covid-19 pandemic. The webinar was used as part of Professor Tuffrey-Wijne’s successful campaign to see those with learning disabilities prioritised for the coronavirus vaccine and generated interest from BBC News, who interviewed Mr Keagan-Bull about the campaign.
Mr Keagan-Bull said being shortlisted for the Shaw Trust Power 100 was a great end to a difficult year. “We’ve all been very isolated and not been able to get out to see our friends – it’s been hard for some people to understand what is going on. All the things I’ve been working on to help them have been a challenge, but a good one – it’s important to keep the voice alive for people with learning disabilities,” he said.
Professor Tuffrey-Wijne said Mr Keagan-Bull was richly deserving of his nomination. “We are extremely lucky to have Richard as our colleague. He is helping us to understand the lives and experiences of people with learning disabilities who may be less able to speak up – he is an amazing advocate and researcher,” she said.
The Shaw Trust Power 100 will be published in October, with BBC News Disability Correspondent Nikki Fox landing top spot in the 2020 list.