Lord Brian Rix, who passed away on 20th August, is fondly remembered as a leading campaigner for the rights of individuals with a learning disability to live full and inclusive lives without the restrictions of an institutional model of care.
His campaigning passion came from his own personal experience as his daughter, Shelley, was born with Down’s Syndrome. In 1979, he applied for the position of Mecap’s Secretary General and, after being initially turned down, was accepted to the post in 1980. Never afraid of controversy, in 1987, he clashed with Lord Hailsham, the then Lord Chancellor, over the involuntary sterilisation of a 17-year-old girl with learning disabilities.
As a life peer, in 2006 Lord Rix voted against a bill on assisted dying because of his concerns that it might be misused in relation to people with learning disabilities. He used his position as a crossbencher in the Lords lobby on learning disabilities and autism at every given opportunity.
He expressed shock at the Winterbourne View scandal of 2011 and the “monstrous” treatment of 1,300 individuals found living in similar situations.
Unfortunately, five years on in 2016 we continue through the Transforming Care agenda to create real and meaningful choice for those who it would seem still need across the spectrum of society all of us to campaign until having a learning disability is no reason to expect any less than the rest of us.