Lord Brian Rix: 1924-2016

brian rixLord Brian Rix: 1924-2016 

Inclusion International is deeply saddened to hear about the death of Lord Brian Rix on Saturday 20th August 2016.

In his early career Lord Rix was a comic actor and household name across Britain in the 50’s and 60’s. He and his wife Elspeth went on to have four children.  In 1951 his first daughter Shelley was born and diagnosed with Down’s syndrome.  At the time little was understood about the condition, then known as mongolism and the Rixes were advised by a doctor to put Shelley away as she was “uneducatable”.   They rejected this advice and the appalling attitudes they witnessed led him to devote his life to tackling prejudice and campaigning for people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

He became involved with campaigning for change soon after and in the early 1960s became involved with Mencap, initially as part of their fundraising committee using his own experiences to raise awareness.  In 1977 Rix gave up acting and in 1978 presented Let’s Go, the first TV programme for people with intellectual disabilities.

In 1980 he started working for Mencap full time as Secretary General and then made Chairman. In the seven years he held the position he helped the organisation to become one of the UK’s best known campaigning organisations.  In 1998 he became President of Mencap, a position he held until his death.

In 1977 Rix honoured for his services to disability.  In 1991 was made a life peer, becoming Lord Rix of Whitehall.  Entering the House of Lords (the upper house of the UK Parliament) as an independent he was one of the most regular attendees. He used his position in The Lords to continue to lobby and campaign for people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

Rix helped push through legislation on the Childcare Bill in 2006 which extended the childcare provision for disabled children from 16 years old to 18 and made short breaks for carers law.  He worked on the Electoral Administration Bill which led to people with intellectual disabilities given the right to vote.  In 2014 he tabled amendments to Children and Families Bill which strengthened the law for children with special education needs.

Throughout his career Brian Rix has been involved with Inclusion International, attending various world congress, and encouraging international cooperation across countries and organisations.  We and the disability community extend our deepest sympathies to his family.