RAF News

International Day of People with Disabilities

Personnel uses a rowing machine in the gym.

3rd December 2021 marked International Day of People with Disabilities, giving the RAF time to celebrate its talented workforce living with disabilities and highlight the support available.

A disability is defined as ‘a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities,’ under the Equality Act 2010.  They can be both visible and invisible; ranging from physical, visual and hearing impairments, mental health conditions, chronic disorders and diseases. 

Shona holds a trophy in skiing kit.
Senior Aircraftwoman Shona Brownlee, member of the Great Britain Para-alpine squad.

Despite the exemption for recruiting into certain roles on the grounds of disability, there are still many individuals in the RAF living with disabilities.  The RAF Disabilities and Carers Network was created almost a year ago, for those to share lived experiences and seek support from others.

Personnel sits in a wheelchair.

King George VI Speech

King George VI is a role model for people with stammers.  He overcame a severe stammer the King had suffered with since childhood, with the help of an Australian speech-therapist.  In his honour, the Defence Stammering Network recreated the 1939 speech King George VI delivered to the nation, the day Britain declared World War II on Nazi Germany.

Watch the Defence Stammering Network's rendition of King George VI's speech here.


The RAF Disabilities and Carers Network organised five virtual events in celebration of International Day of People with Disabilities.

Personnel and notable figures stand in conference room.

The first event was hosted by Seema Flower, founder of Blind Ambition and listed as one of the most influential disabled people in the UK 2020, on the Shaw Trust Power top 100.  Seema discussed her own lived experience and what Blind Ambition means to her, before facilitating a Q&A session.

Personnel stand before presentation display screen.

The Defence Stammering Network were joined by Flight Lieutenant Jamie Wilson and recently promoted Major Michael Boyd, for the second event.  1-3% of the UK’s adult population having a stammer, but the event showed how it does not hold people back in their Service career.

Personnel in uniform.

The next event welcomed the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) who raise awareness and challenge the stigma of suicide.  125 lives are lost every week to suicide and 75% of all UK suicides are male.  CALM discussed what their charity does and how we can all help each other when we are finding life difficult.

Anya Sizer from UK Fertility Network gave a presentation on would-be parents’ rights and shared how the RAF support their teams experiencing fertility problems. 

Stu in his wheelchair during rugby match.
Former RAF Regiment Gunner Stu Robinson during the Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby Tokyo Paralympics 2020.

The final event allowed Shell, a Civil Servant in the RAF, bravely share her journey with mental health and her coping mechanisms.

International Day of People with Disabilities was an insightful and diverse week, raising awareness of disabilities within our community.  The RAF continue to support its workforce, family and friends with disabilities, and encourage all without disabilities to join the conversations and increase their awareness.

Listen to episode 10 of Inside AIR for more about life in Uniform while living with a disability.