Mike Brace CBE honoured for achievements
A respected paralympian and sports administrator who says he “fundamentally believes in what the University of East London is trying to do”, has been recognised with an honorary doctorate at London’s 02 Arena.
Mike Brace CBE collected the prestigious honour at a packed graduation ceremony on Wednesday in recognition of his many achievements and services to sport, and his nine years of dedicated service as a UEL governor.
“I was flattered and honoured when I first heard I had been nominated”, said Mr Brace. “To be part of a ceremony honouring student ability gives me a sense of excitement. Everyone has worked very, very hard.”
Mr Brace represented Great Britain in blind cross-country skiing at six Winter Paralympic Games, three World Championships and two European Championships. He later became chair of the British Paralympic Association and was a key member of the bid team that secured the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. These accomplishments were rewarded with an OBE in 2005 and a CBE in 2009 for services to disability sport.
“Inclusion has been a hard battle,” he said. “People often see the disability or skin colour first and the person second. For me, it is always the person first. That is where inclusion starts, with what people can do.”
Born in Hackney in 1950, Mike enjoyed a normal, sport-loving childhood until, at the age of ten, he lost his sight when a firework exploded in his face.
“I would get on the bus with mum and hear people say ‘poor so and so’. I would ask who they were talking about, then realise it was me”, he said.
Overcoming negative attitudes, Mr Brace became a dedicated social worker, rising to become assistant director for children’s services in the London Borough Kensington and Chelsea before moving into the voluntary sector in 2001. When he retired in 2012 he was chief executive of the vision impairment charity, Vision 2020 UK.
Using the acronym “A.B.I.L.I.T.Y” – Attitudes, Barriers, Inspiration, Listening, Inclusion, Thought processes – Mr Brace delivered an impassioned acceptance speech at the two-hour ceremony.
“Y is for You,” he said. “Each of you is massively important. You have the ability to change people’s thinking. Disability has so often been a state of mind – my state and your mind. You cannot do a lot about my state but together we change a lot of peoples’ minds.”