A woman who champions disability rights has been selected to be an Paralympic torch bearer.
Bev Smith, from Tangmere, got involved with disability rights work in 2000 after seeing an advert looking for people to train as advocates for adults with learning disabilities.
Bev said: “I feel really, really honoured to represent my country which I’ve never done before and I know that whilst I’m carrying the torch I will be doing that on behalf of disabled people – people with seen and unseen disabilities.
“Knowing that each step I take will be in pain is just proof to me that disabled people as a whole are pretty resilient.
“Each step will be painful but it will take an act of Parliament to stop me.”
Among her many roles Bev has worked on behalf of adults who have mental health issues. She was also headhunted to complete a leadership training programme run by the then Royal Association for Disability Rights (RADAR), now Disability Rights UK.
Bev is now involved in helping influence national policy, giving people a voice who may not otherwise be able to articulate their needs.
She was nominated to be a torchbearer by the organisation’s head of leadership and empowerment, David Stocks who was inspired by her can-do and pro-active approach.
Bev, who has a number of seen and unseen health issues herself, including some mobility problems, said: “I just always had ingrained in me a really strong personal ethic and value of equality, not just disability equality but equality in general.”
Bev has lived in Tangmere for 16 years and previously worked in the finance sector. She now runs her own consultancy firm and also works hard for the community.
Since 2009 she has been a councillor for Tangmere Parish Council. She has just started a project to set up a youth council, using her skills in disability rights to empower young people.
She said: “As a group, disabled people are resilient, resourceful and loyal. These are the qualities that employers and businesses seek out to achieve success. These are the qualities that make true leaders and pathfinders.
“An economically healthy and balanced society is one where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. We need more disabled people in leadership roles, and more disabled MPs.
“People who are resilient, resourceful and loyal will hasten our sustainable economic recovery. The Games represent a unique opportunity to see disabled people’s skills and abilities beyond the stereotypes, to see what is possible, and to be amazed.”