Tributes to Lord Jack Ashley

16 May 2012

Lord Ashely

On 20th April 2012, disabled rights campaigner and co-founder of the Deafness Research UK charity passed away at the age of 88.

Throughout his life Jack was a tireless fighter against injustice.  And by overcoming his own disability, he inspired others.

Lord Ashley had long since been fighting for the rights of those with disabilities when he became deaf in 1967. In 1985, he and his wife founded the Deafness Research UK Charity (known then as Hearing and Speech Trust).

We hope to collate a number of tributes from Ear Institute members here, but if you would like to leave you own tribute to Lord Ashley's family please do so at this dedicated site:

Tribute from Mr John Graham (RNTNEH)

I knew Jack both as a patient and as a the most stalwart of fighters in the front line against deafness and against anyone stupid enough to try to prevent him from getting the very best treatment available for those with hearing problems.

Jack’s own deafness was a personal tragedy which he hammered into the most effective weapon with which to help those with any disability. He became famous during his battle for those with Thalidomide induced problems, but extended his reach to help those with any form of disability.

In the 1980s he lined up with the BCIG to persuade the government to fund cochlear implants; I doubt if the plan the NHS eventually produced would have been anything like as good as it was without Jack’s help, and after that he was incredibly effective in getting PCTs, fundholding bureaucrats of every sort and the most indolent of administrators not only to reply to his letters but also to cough up whatever was necessary for the benefit of the patient. It only took a brief letter from me to Jack and things were as good as done. Scores of our patients were able to receive implants thanks to Jack’s help. After a while it became clear that if people we were approaching in the Department of Health knew Jack was in the background they would tend to say ‘yes’ pretty quickly!

Jack was a really good patient: he put up with the fact that his first implant failed soon after switch-on and had to be replaced, he used the implant very effectively, bearing in mind the duration of his profound deafness, and when the second implant suffered progressive loss of electrode function he uncomplainingly came in yet again for a replacement. Our implant team were extremely fond of him and he really took pleasure in their attention. His wife, Pauline was, of course, behind him at every stage, until her tragic and sudden death. Jack must have found it very hard to carry on after this, but did so very effectively, with regular appearances in the House of Lords, persisting in his fight for what was clearly the best for the disabled and those with hearing problems. When he first became profoundly deaf it was predicted that he would have to give up his relatively new political house of Commons career. Not so: Jack and Pauline pressed on, and the rest is history, as they say!

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