Find out who’s won a Sense Award 2022

This year, we were overwhelmed by incredible stories. Of course, we can only recognise some of the wonderful achievements that have happened this year.

Our 2022 nominees are truly amazing. They were all carefully chosen by our judging panel: journalist Liam O’Dell, influencer Shelby Lynch, BBC broadcaster Mark Lane, blogger Georgia Vine and Sense’s chief executive Richard Kramer

On this page, see the Sense Awards 2022 winners for each of these categories:

Person of the Year

Winner: Max Fisher 

Max is a genderqueer, deafblind scientist and drag king who uses their disability to give them an edge. They use their YouTube channel as an educational tool, reaching thousands of people with their videos on chronic disability. They also use canes and BSL to make their drag performances educational, inclusive and even more entertaining for the audience.

Warren Newman

Warren has been volunteering for Sense since 2017. He has CHARGE syndrome and is deaf with a visual impairment. Warren supports the teaching of BSL at Sense TouchBase Pears, and has also taken part in BSL signed story events. Warren encourages adults and children to take part and enjoys being a role model to other deaf and disabled people.

Norma Pearson 

Norma is registered blind and has a hearing impairment. She’s been attending pilates and yoga classes over the phone with Sense since 2021. In January 2022, she swapped roles and started leading her own classes, using her passion for community arts. More and more people are joining Norma’s sessions every week, and loving it!

Young Person of the Year

Winner: Shaheen Sultan

Shaheen, 24, is a joy to be around. He has a learning disability, and taking part in Sense’s Buddying scheme has helped him grow in confidence. Despite initially being nervous, he now regularly joins in and volunteers at events, and even encourages others to volunteer, too. 

He’s provided the Sense policy team with useful insight, and helped design the craft activities at Thrive Festival 2022. We’re so happy to see Shaheen flourish thanks to his positive attitude.

George Cook 

George Cook, 19, is Deaf and has CHARGE syndrome. He lives in Birmingham. When not at Sense TouchBase Pears, he can be found supporting our campaigns and being a teacher for Sense Sign School. George has made the most out of everything Sense has to offer, and has gone above and beyond by giving back his time and support.

Sam Cowell

Sam is 17 and has dual sensory impairment and autism. Despite the challenges with the change to his routine during the pandemic, Sam discovered a new interest in music. He overcame his stage fright to play the drums in an end-of-school concert. 

Next, he set himself the goal of going to a music festival, which he achieved in 2022. Sam danced up a storm, embracing a new and exciting life experience and displaying a can-do attitude!

Ruby Dearden

Ruby is a cochlear implant user with a severe sight loss and is currently studying for her A-Levels. She recently completed her silver Duke of Edinburgh award, and took part in a school ski trip despite not being able to see and hear the instructor well. She also won an award at school for services to the community and recently joined the student leadership team in her sixth form.

After completing her A-levels, Ruby is planning an interrailing trip. She always shows determination, a positive attitude and supports the people around her.

Young Sibling of the Year

Winner: Ivy Stedman

Eight-year-old Ivy has a brother and sister with disabilities. She’s a fierce advocate for siblings and young carers. After learning about politics with Sense’s siblings and young carers group, Ivy wrote a letter to her MP Johnny Mercer about her experiences. She’s now received a referral to be assessed in school for additional support, something the family had been waiting two years for! Ivy’s council is now looking at how they can better support young carers in her area.

Scott Neal

15-year-old Scott looks after his sister Poppy, who was born prematurely and unwell. Poppy was also recently diagnosed with suspected spina bifida and has bladder damage which requires her to be catheterised every few hours. Scott, who is currently studying for his GCSEs, has been by Poppy’s side at every step, holding her hand and reassuring her during catheterisation as well as supporting his mum.

Cameron Yates

13-year-old Cameron supports his mother and looks after his younger brother, Karson, who is autistic. As well as helping at home, Cameron also gives time to care for his grandmother by doing jobs for her and chatting to her on the phone, so she isn’t lonely.

Family Carer of the Year

Winner: Gillian Marren

Gillian, who has been a nurse for 48 years, cares for a number of her family members. This includes her husband of 50 years, Robert, who has diabetes, Alzheimer’s dementia and has been deaf since birth. Gillian also supports two of her sons who have moderate learning disabilities. Alongside this, she supports her niece who is undergoing brain surgery, and works part-time in a GP surgery.

Michael Highland

Michael has devoted his life to caring for his 11-year-old daughter, Sophie, who has cerebral palsy. She is non-verbal and needs 24-hour care. Michael fundraised and organised stem cell treatment to improve Sophie’s quality of life. Sophie goes to a mainstream school, and Michael goes the extra mile to make sure his daughter experiences as much as other kids do, as far as possible.

Phil Emberson

Phil’s son Arlo has CHARGE syndrome. Arlo attends dance sessions with Sense, and Phil joins in the sessions, supporting Arlo to take part and have fun. Over the past year, Phil has enthusiastically recommended song choices with Arlo, and supported his son to really build his confidence and dance moves! Phil is also a passionate advocate, sharing his experiences as a carer to help raise awareness of fathers caring for disabled children.

Romano Williams

10-year-old Romano has been caring for his mum since he was seven. He also helps his little sister, Ebony who is autistic and has ADHD. Romano is also autistic and has ADHD himself. He’s a keen artist, and loves to get creative by making comics and attending his after-school arts class. His mum Chloe told Sense, “He cooks for us, cleans, washes up, hoovers, and makes breakfast. I cannot praise him enough.”

Campaigner of the Year

Winner: British Deaf Association (BDA) 

The BDA led the BSL Act Now campaign which brought about the passing of the BSL Bill. On 28 June this year, the British Sign Language (BSL Bill) became part of UK law. The bill means that, among other things, BSL is now recognised as an official language.

This would not have been possible without the tireless campaigning from BDA and everyone else involved in the BSL Act Now campaign.

The Butler-Castanheira family

Keith Butler and his partner Helen Castanheira live in Redditch and are full-time carers for their 21-year-old son Geordie. They’ve been a huge voice in Sense’s cost of living campaign, calling for the government to do more to support families through blogs, films and speaking to the media. Their voices have been key in driving public awareness about the desperate financial situation many disabled households find themselves in.

Lisette Auton

Lisette Auton is a disabled writer, activist and creative practitioner. Her debut book, The Secret of Haven Point was published with Puffin Books. As a disabled person herself, Lisette was dismayed at the lack of disabled characters in books – so she wrote her own!

Books like Lisette’s will inspire so many disabled young people, showing that they can have the same kind of experiences as non-disabled people.

Martin Lewis

This year, campaigner, journalist and broadcaster Martin Lewis has made it his mission to campaign and provide advice to people on the cost of living crisis. This has included highlighting the crisis’s disproportionate impact on disabled people.

Volunteer of the Year

Winner: Sue McKevitt

Sue goes above and beyond with her volunteering at the Oswestry Sense charity shop, having been with the shop since it opened. With her expertise from past customer service roles, she’s helped the shop become a huge success in Oswestry. Despite cancer, Sue stays positive and active, and always has a smile on her face!

Sophie Neville

Sophie has volunteered as a Sense Buddy for over three years, giving between two and four weekends per month to spend time with her Buddy. Sophie has always shown kindness and patience to her Buddy, and her constant presence has made a huge difference in this young person’s life. 

Dr Grace Orire-Banjo

Grace has been volunteering at the Walworth Road Sense charity shop for several years now. Although Grace has a regular job as a lecturer at the local university, she still comes to the shop four times a week. She has always been supportive of all Sense’s campaigns and is a hugely valued member of the team.

Fundraiser of the Year

Winner: Seth Walshe 

Seth, nine, is big brother to Mylo, who has complex disabilities and went on a Sense Holiday last year. Seth was inspired to take on a challenge so other children like Mylo could go on a Sense Holiday. After finding out he was too young to run a 10k race, Seth instead set himself a challenge to run 5k 20 times in 2022, running a total of 100k. He’s raised over £2,500 so far!

Rosie Fitzsimmons 

Rosie is a young woman with Down’s Syndrome who enthusiastically raises funds for Sense in and around Sheffield, with the help of her friend Shona. Rosie has taken part in a sponsored walk that raised over £1,000 and her local store’s Sensational Tea Party (raising over £800).

Rosie also volunteers up to three days a week at the Hillsborough Sense store, where she eagerly discusses the fundraising events she’s planning next.

Ian Lewis 

Ian Lewis raised over £3,000 for Sense by walking the entire 630-mile length of the South West Coastal Path in June. That’s the equivalent of hiking Mount Everest four times over!

Ian’s daughter Daisy has complex needs and enjoyed going on fun-filled Sense Holidays as a child. That’s what inspired Ian to take on his challenge.

Celebrity of the Year

Winner: Ruth Madeley

Over the years, Ruth has acted in some incredible TV shows, all playing a huge part in greater disability representation. Over the most recent year she starred in Barbara Met Alan, the true story of two cabaret stars who fought for disabled civil rights, as well as making a documentary on abortion and disability. Ruth has made it her mission to put disability on the UK TV agenda

Lizz Carr

Liz is an actress, comedian, presenter and activist. She’s been a disability activist for 25 years, which has included handcuffing herself to buses to fight for accessible transport. She recently won an Olivier award for her performance in the Normal Heart, and used her press appearances afterwards to call for disability rights. Liz also acted in the drama Silent Witness, where she was part of a storyline on disability hate crime, which raised vital awareness.

Tasha Ghouri

Tasha rose to fame as the first deaf contestant on Love Island.

On the show, and since leaving, she’s been raising awareness of her disability, educating millions of viewers on deaf issues.

Influencer of the Year

Winner: Lauren Gilbert

Lauren Gilbert, also known as Neurodiversity with Lozza, spreads awareness about issues that the disabled community faces through easy to read, accessible posts. Lauren’s work is used by mental health nurses to educate about autism in the workplace. Lauren shares her personal experiences honestly and openly to help others and spoke about them at the Manchester Autism Show 2022. On top of this, they are disability officer at their Students’ Union, where they fight for the rights and access needs of their fellow students.

Alice Ella

Alice has been raising awareness of chronic illnesses with her Instagram content, including informative reels and stories and collaborations with other disabled influencers. Alice has lived with ME for a total of eighteen years. She suffers debilitating fatigue daily and as her disability is invisible, she regularly comes across ableist attitudes.

Alice is a strong advocate for ambulatory wheelchair users and those with invisible illnesses. She worked with Transport for London on the ‘Please Offer Me A Seat’ campaign.

Disabled Eliza

Disabled Eliza posts content on social media to educate people on the issues disabled people face with joy and passion. Their content encapsulates what life is like for young disabled people today. Eliza has racked up billions of views for their content across TikTok, Instagram and Twitter, spreading a message of disability rights.

Blind Tobes

Toby runs a popular TikTok account called @blindtobes, where he makes videos exploring life as a blind man. Toby does a lot to educate his followers on the realities of blindness and how he navigates everyday life. Toby is proud of his blindness and shares his enthusiasm for being a member of a blind football team on his channel.

Parliamentarian of the Year

Winner: Baroness Tyler of Enfield

Baroness Tyler is being recognised for her work campaigning for disabled children. Over the past year she has chaired the inquiry into the Children and Families Act which has examined the SEND system. As part of the inquiry she visited Sense in Barnet to talk to parents and Sense staff about the problems facing children with complex disabilities.

Mary Foy

Mary Foy has been a long-time champion for disabled children and their families. Recently she sponsored an event for the Disabled Children’s Partnership on the SEND green paper. The event featured groups of disabled young people and parent carers sharing their experiences of navigating disabled children’s services, their views on reform, and a policy briefing on the SEND green paper.

Rosie Cooper

Rosie Cooper has spent years campaigning for the recognition of BSL. Thanks to her support and Private Members Bill (and that of the thousands of people campaigning), earlier this year BSL received formal recognition as a language.

Journalism of the Year

Winner: Emily Braeger – Daily Express 

Emily has been the driving force behind the Daily Express’s disability series. This year, the series has highlighted how the cost of living crisis is affecting disabled people on a near-daily basis.

Her stories get attention and spark debate – providing a platform for disabled people to share their experiences.

Dr Frances Ryan

Dr Frances is a brilliant columnist, journalist and author. She writes regularly for The Guardian and has published a book about disability.

Her writing challenges injustice and addresses the issues facing the disability community. She’s a constant champion for the voices of disabled people in the media and on her social media channels.

Liam O’Dell

Award-winning journalist Liam regularly speaks up and writes about disability issues across UK media. He has written for The Limping Chicken, Independent and Indy 100. His writing and advocacy brings disability issues to the front of the UK news agenda.

Alongside writing, Liam also produces content for his own YouTube channel and is a public speaker.

Partner of the Year

Winner: Snozone

Snozone is the UK’s leading snow centre for indoor skiing and snowboarding on real snow. The company wholeheartedly engaged with Sense during the Covid-19 pandemic, and our partnership continues to go from strength to strength. Snozone remains committed to being inclusive and disability-aware, investing in new equipment and training.

Dual Works

Dual Works have collaborated with Sense on numerous design projects over the last couple of years. Most recently, they’ve worked with Sense on innovative storage and furniture for the new Birmingham children’s studio, as well as our Loughborough Hub. They put accessibility at the heart of their designs, making sure that disabled people can offer consultation on the designs in a meaningful way.

NatCen Social Research

NatCen, the social research organisation, worked with Sense on a groundbreaking piece of research into the scale of complex disabilities in the UK. This research is already having a significant impact. It’s forming the basis of media and campaigns work, policy and public affairs influencing, fundraising and service design and delivery.

Community Partner of the Year

Winner: Severn Trent

Severn Trent have been working with Sense to break down barriers to employment for disabled people. We’ve helped Severn Trent Academy deliver training and support for disabled people in the workplace. Severn Trent Academy and Community Fund have also donated £75,000 to Sense for our employment service and for our sensory studio at TouchBase Pears. 

James Kennedy of Arts Forum Selly Oak

James worked closely with Sense on an application to the Creative Cities Grant as part of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 Festival. This led to our brilliant exhibition, Haptic Homes: Selly Oak. Thanks to James’s clear communication and advocacy, we’ve secured further funding for more exciting projects. 

Pivotal Fitness 

Pivotal Health and Wellbeing has been working with Sense to deliver fun sports activities for disabled people for four years. Since January 2022 alone, they’ve run 92 sessions for over 1,500 people, including drumming to music and zumba.