Disability champion recognised

Professor Tom Shakespeare

Published on 29 November 2017

An internationally-recognised disability champion, who began his career at the University of Sunderland over 20 years ago, has been honoured.

Professor Tom Shakespeare has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science – the highest award the University can bestow – in recognition of his outstanding contribution to disability rights at the University’s annual Winter Graduation Ceremonies.

Professor Shakespeare was educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and gained his MPhil from King’s College. His first teaching post was as a lecturer in sociology at the University of Sunderland.

He went on to teach and undertake research at both Leeds and Newcastle universities, and is currently Professor of Disability Research at the University of East Anglia. A campaigner and writer on disability rights, Professor Shakespeare has written and edited many books, presented on both TV and radio, worked for the World Health Organisation, and served as a member of the Arts Council England. 

He says: “I will always be grateful to Sunderland for placing their confidence in me.

“People need to know that disability is all about non-disabled people. You can remove barriers, you can change stigma and discrimination, and you can treat people fairly, regardless of their impairment; and in all these ways you can help us build a better world.

“What makes the difference in life is the relationship between people.  That’s what makes life worth living. That’s what gives people value. Everyone is capable of making this emotional contact, and in the end, it’s the most important reward you can get, whether you’re disabled or non-disabled.”

Professor Tom Shakespeare was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science in recognition of his outstanding contribution as a disability and human rights campaigner.