UK disability campaigner Lord Rix dies aged 92

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The actor and disability campaigner Lord Rix who was terminally ill has died aged 92

A household name in the UK for his role in classic British farces he became interested in issues surrounding disability after his daughter Shelley was born in 1951 with Down’s syndrome.

In campaigning circles he was best known for his link with the mental disability charity Mencap, which he first became involved with in the 1960s as a fundraiser. He eventually became its chief executive in 1980, its Chairman in 1988 and its President 10 years later.

Rix was awarded a CBE in 1977, a knighthood in 1986 and became a life peer in 1992. He was an active cross-bencher in the House of Lords, using his position to influence critical legislation, and ensure the interests of people with a learning disability were represented. He spoke close to 300 times in debates and contributed to at least 45 bills. One of his last political acts was to send a letter to the Baroness D’Souza, Speaker of the House of Lords, urging Parliament to review its position on ‘assisted dying’.

Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, said:

When Lord Rix’s daughter, Shelley, was born with a learning disability he and his wife Elspet were told to put her away, and forget about her. This started a quest lasting over 60 years to make the world a better place for all those with a learning disability. His unique charm, personality and passion have been invaluable in helping Mencap grow.

Lord Rix made a real difference but there is still so much more to be done. We will not stop until people with a learning disability are valued equally, listened to and fully included in our society. That would be the most fitting tribute that we could pay to such an extraordinary man.

Lord Rix’s daughter Shelley died in 2005, and his wife Elspet in 2013. He is survived by three children, Louisa, Jamie and Jonathan.

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