It is with great sadness that we mourn the death on Friday, 27 March 2015, of John Lambert MBE, a very close friend and founding inspiration of Brotherwood Automobility. He was a C-5 quadriplegic, paralysed from the neck down, and had been in a wheelchair for 34 years.
John joined the Royal Air Force on leaving school and flew the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft for 8 years before joining Britannia Airways where he flew the Boeing 737 and later the bigger four-engine Boeing 707. In the latter years of his flying career he lived in Casablanca where he led a full and active life which included sailing his boat ‘Sanaa’ off the coast of Devon and later in the warm waters of the Mediterranean.
Following a motorcycle accident at the age of 33, John become totally dependent upon his wheelchair for his mobility and needed carers to attend to his daily needs. However, John was a man of tremendous courage and determination who put his own devastating handicap behind him, recognised work that needed to be done to assist others, and set about tackling it head-on.
In 1989, John was a founding member, and later Chairman, of the Weymouth & Portland Access Group (WPAG), formed with the objective of making Weymouth and Portland accessible to all. Over the following years he sat on numerous committees, giving advice on disability, starting long before the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 came into being. He fought tirelessly to improve the lives of other people with physical disabilities in Dorset, including those with sensory impairment. He also gave numerous talks to improve able bodied peoples’ understanding of disability.
He founded a magazine called ‘Consumer Forum’ in 1991. At that time, services for disabled people were not very well developed. John discovered that disabled people were having great difficulty finding their way around the mountainous morass of government legislation concerning their everyday lives, as well as managing their financial situations. Over the next 18 years, John worked tirelessly, and for no financial benefit, to improve the rights and opportunities available to them. As the Editor, he provided a tremendous service to the disabled of Dorset by researching government directives on disabled people and regularly informing and updating the magazine’s readership.
John compiled and edited Consumer Forum himself, securing all of its funding through advertising: it became recognised as a major source of information and advice. The knowledge people gained helped to empower them to take greater responsibility for their care and well-being. Moreover, it was also a means through which people could debate issues of practice and policy and, where necessary, challenge the authorities in a constructive way to ensure that disabled people could benefit as much as others from the improvements in Community Care.
John received a Good Citizen Award from the Mayor of Weymouth & Portland for his services in 2005, for his unfailing work on behalf of the disabled; work which also entailed visiting public buildings, e.g. hospitals, cinemas, council offices, old people’s homes, department stores etc. in his own time and entirely at his own expense, to check that there was adequate access for the disabled. He was also a pioneer in encouraging Dorset Social Services to allow disabled people to live independently in their own homes.
Since 1989, John held the following posts:
• Chairman of Weymouth & Portland ACCESS Group
• Chairman of The Grange Cheshire Homes in Poole
• Chairman of Dorchester Cheshire Homes
• Chairman of ABILITIES, which operates from Weymouth, Shaftesbury and Poole
• Chairman of DORSET LIFESTYLES
• Served on the Quality Assurance Team for the Dorset County Hospital
A further, fitting, tribute was paid to John in 2012, when he was recognised for his services to people with disabilities in Weymouth and Portland and awarded an MBE.
When John first moved to Weymouth shortly after his accident, he lived next door to Rod Brotherwood. In the weeks that followed they became close friends: amongst the many conversations they had, John asked Rod if he could turn his extensive engineering knowledge to design and build him a vehicle which would easily transport him in his wheelchair. He wanted the things any customer would look for in a new car, such as smart appearance, convenience and compact dimensions. In particular John wanted something that didn't stand out as a vehicle for the disabled. This was something Brotherwood Automobility has never forgotten.
Many people in Dorset; both able-bodied and disabled, have gained enormously from the service that John gave the community for as long as he was physically able. He will always be remembered for giving disabled people back their dignity and independence and will be sorely missed.