A champion of the disabled who deserves our support

Lynda Relph-Knight

You can’t help but have noticed the tremendous feat being carried out by Gill Hicks and friends in the name of humanity. The much reported WalkTalk walk from Leeds to London, which ends later this month, aims to bring people together who might not normally meet, let alone talk and walk alongside each other.

What is remarkable about WalkTalk, conceived by Hicks and her husband Joe Kerr, head of Critical and Historical Studies at the Royal College of Art, with Leeds-based Together for Peace, is that Hicks lost both her legs to a terrorist bomb on the London Underground on 7 July 2005. This hasn’t dimmed her amazingly sunny outlook on life and, if anything, has enhanced her love of it.

When she reaches London, she will have walked 320km on the month-long journey, along with others who have suffered afflictions, as well as able-bodied supporters.

Before the suicide bomber struck, Hicks was head of curating at the Design Council. Though not a designer – her background is in design publishing – she is nonetheless highly creative. If WalkTalk is about humanity, then art and design coalition Mad for Peace, founded by Hicks and Kerr, is about bringing creativity into the mix.

Nor does it end there for Hicks. She is an ambassador for peace and involved with various organisations to that end. But she also speaks out eloquently on behalf of people with physical impairments. She talks, for example, about shortcomings in airport systems, which mean she and others like her have to leave a plane on a cherry picker with the baggage.

Hicks’s aim is to change things for the better, which is surely the mantra of most designers. Like wheelchair designer David Constantine who, through his charity Motivation, has created self-supporting industries in developing countries, she is using her disability as a springboard for this, seeking to change not just products, but systems through design and action. The least we can all do is give her our support.

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