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Speaker praises Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup winners at debut Disability History Month event

22 November 2022

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The Speaker of the House of Commons used his first ever celebration of Disability History Month to hail the success of the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup squad.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle said the team "had made the whole country very proud" with their nail-biting 28:24 victory over France at the finals in Manchester on Friday. 

"Your determination, grit and sheer brilliance has not only won you the trophy, but has proved how sport can bring people, communities and nations together," he said. 

"You have attracted a legion of new fans and shown non-disabled and disabled people alike the power of good that sport can bring."

The Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup team were among a host of disabled stars from the worlds of TV, sport and politics invited by the Speaker to celebrate their successes at the first event of its kind in the House of Commons. 

Actor Julie Fernandez, who uses a wheelchair and is best known for her role as Brenda in the BBC comedy The Office said, "celebrating the lives and achievements" of the 20 per cent of the world population that are deaf, disabled and/ or neurodivergent "is incredibly important". 

"Sharing our stories, struggles and joys will bring knowledge to those in power who can make a difference and show respect to our underrepresented community," she said. 

Paralympian Georgie Bullen, who is partially-sighted and works as a content designer in Parliament, said it "meant a great deal" to her that her place of work was celebrating Disability History Month.

"As a disabled person, I face challenges daily that many of my able-bodied colleagues won’t even be aware of," she said.

"Celebrating DHM means that we are shining a light on these challenges."

Sir Lindsay added that "it was fantastic to celebrate the amazing contribution made by disabled people from all sectors of society – now and in the past. 

"It is a reminder that we must continue to ensure that everyone has the ability to participate in society."

He described former MP Lord David Blunkett, who is blind and went on to become Education Secretary and Home Secretary, "as an absolute inspiration – and proof if ever it was needed that disability should be no barrier to success."

The event was also attended by champions from the England team who won the first ever Physical Disability Rugby League World Cup last month, and members of the Armed Forces charity, SAAFA, which has provided physical and emotional support to that community for more than 130 years.