London man wins RNIB Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding service to sight loss community
A London man received a prestigious award from RNIB in recognition of his dedication to improving the lives of people with sight loss.
Mike Brace, 69 who lives in the London Borough of Havering but is originally from Hackney, East London, lost sight in one eye at the age of 10 as a result of a firework accident. He was presented with the 6th Duke of Westminster Lifetime Achievement Award at the RNIB See Differently Awards.
The awards, which were sponsored by Bayer, highlighted the contributions being made by people to break down barriers, and reward those creating opportunities that enable blind and partially sighted people to live the life they want to lead. Along with the Lifetime Achievement award, the RNIB See Differently awards recognised exceptional individuals and teams across six categories: Campaigner of the Year, Innovator of the Year, Community Contributor of the Year, Social Media Influencer of the Year, Team of the Year and Employer of the Year.
A social worker, charity director, sportsman and author, Mike has helped thousands of visually impaired people make the most of their talents over the past 50 years.
In the two years following Mike’s firework accident, the sight in his un-injured eye slowly deteriorated to nothing due to a condition called uveitis. He then became totally blind when he lost the sight in his injured eye due to a haemorrhage that detached the retina. He attended a special boarding school to receive the support he needed, and it was there that he discovered many sports he thought would be too difficult to attempt were in fact still possible.
Mike said: “After losing my sight, I felt the only way back to restoring my self-belief and self-worth was through sport. I decided to look at what abilities I did have, not my disability then set myself goals.”
Over the years Mike has tried 54 different sports including surfing, sailing, skiing and cricket. One of his biggest achievements was completing the Devizes to Westminster 125-mile canoe marathon for charity at the age of 33. It took Mike and his guide 27 hours of non-stop canoeing, without sleep, in the worst weather conditions in the history of the race. Of the 182 canoes that took part, 100 dropped out.
Mike founded the Metro Sports Club for the Blind, with eight VI friends in 1973. The club introduced Mike to cross-country skiing, and he went on to be selected to represent Britain in the first Paralympic Winter Games in Sweden in 1976. Metro Sports still exists today and now has almost 400 members, many of whom are active well into their 90s!
Following on from this Mike also helped set up several national sports bodies for disabled people: The British Paralympic Association, British Blind Sport and the British Ski Club for the Disabled.
In 2001 Mike became Development Director for the newly formed VISION 2020 UK, (now VISION UK) an organisation that unites various charities including RNIB and health services involved in sight loss to encourage them to work more closely together. He became CEO in 2002 and retired in 2012. Mike, who was also a board member of both the successful Olympic and Paralympic 2012 Bid Team and the London Organising Committee (LOCOG), was awarded an OBE in 2005 and a CBE in 2009 for Services to Disabled Sport. He was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant of London in 2016.
He has written two biographies; ‘Where There’s a Will’ and ‘Don’t ask me, ask the dog!’ on Amazon. Both titles are available from RNIB Bookshare, a free online service that helps print-disabled people in the UK access an online library of digital resources.
In relation to receiving RNIB’s Lifetime Achievement Award Mike said: “I had no idea I’d been nominated so I was both shocked and delighted to win. I did these things over the years because they needed doing and I wanted to change perceptions so to have this recognised is firstly a shock, then secondly it gives you a little glow inside. I’m hoping that by showing what someone with a vision impairment can do, it might spur on other people with a visual impairment to say, ‘Yes, I can do that too!’”
RNIB CEO Matt Stringer said: “Mike’s amazing work over 50 years illustrates exactly what the RNIB See Differently Awards are all about. He truly deserves the Lifetime Achievement Award as recognition of his dedication to changing the world for blind and partially sighted people and I warmly congratulate him on his success.”
About the Awards
The RNIB See Differently Award winners were announced at an awards ceremony at Glaziers Hall, London on 26 November 2019. Receiving an RNIB award on the night were:
- Rachael Andrews, Campaigner of the Year Award. Sponsored by Sony
- Tactile Collider, Innovator of the Year Award. Sponsored by Heathrow
- Fraser Fleming, Community Contributor of the Year. Sponsored by Novartis
- Holly Tuke, Social Media Influencer of the Year. Sponsored by Amazon
- Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, Team of the Year. Sponsored by Alcon
- Financial Times, Employer of the Year. Sponsored by RNIB