As part of our RNIB See Differently Awards, the Sixth Duke of Westminster Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded to someone with an established history of respected service, who is an inspiration to others, and who has made a lasting contribution to people with sight loss.
In recognition of Major General Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, this is called the Sixth Duke of Westminster Lifetime Achievement Award and it recognises a person’s outstanding contributions to the sight loss sector.
Mike Brace, the winner of this year’s lifetime achievement award, has made an outstanding contribution to business, sport and charity, changing perceptions of disability and inspiring thousands. In 2003 Mike was awarded an OBE and, in 2009, a CBE for Services to Disabled Sport.
Born in Hackney, East London, in 1950, Mike has always loved sport. However, at the age of ten, his life dramatically changed. Blinded in one eye, after an accident with fireworks, Mike then lost sight in his second eye two years later from a detached retina. At 12, he reluctantly went to a specialist boarding school, but there he re-discovered his love of sport.
In 1973 he founded the Metro Sports Club for the Blind. Later, he helped set up The British Paralympic Association, British Blind Sport and the British Ski Club for the Disabled.
Mike went on to become a successful cross-country skier. He managed, and competed in, the Paralympic ski team. A talented and versatile athlete, aged 33, he completed the Devizes to Westminster 125-mile canoe marathon. It took him and his guide 27 hours of non-stop canoeing, without sleep, in the worst weather conditions in the history of the race.
As a board member of both the successful Olympic and Paralympic 2012 Bid Team, Mike was appointed to the London Organising Committee for London 2012 and later became CEO for the newly formed VISION 2020 UK, an organisation which unites various charities, including RNIB, and health services involved in sight loss.
Mike told us what winning this lifetime achievement award means to him: “I did these things over the years because they needed doing and I wanted to change perceptions, so to have this recognised is a shock, but gives you a little glow inside. By showing what someone with a vision impairment can do, I’m hoping it might spur on other people with a VI to say, ‘Yes, I can do that too!’”