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First deaf MP Lord Ashley dies

Prime Minister David Cameron has led tributes to disabled rights campaigner Lord Ashley, hailing his "huge impact" on public attitudes, after the Labour peer died at the age of 89 on Friday after a short illness

Jack Ashley won the seat of Stoke-on-Trent South in 1966 but lost his hearing less than two years later after an unsuccessful ear operation. After initially fearing he would be forced to give up politics, Ashley learned to lip-read.

Other MPs, including political foes such as Prime Minister Edward Heath, turned towards him during Commons debates so he could get a clear view of their mouths.

Mr Cameron said: "He was a tireless campaigner for disabled people and had a huge impact, not just through his charity work and pushing for legislation in Parliament, but also in changing attitudes. He will be sorely missed and my thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "Jack Ashley turned his own tragic experience of losing his hearing into a mission of courage and determination for deaf and disabled people. He was a pioneer as the first deaf MP to sit in Parliament, but he did much more than that."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the peer's life was an "inspiration to all". The Liberal Democrat leader said: "His tenacity and courage made this country a better and fairer place for people with disabilities. He was a great man who has left a great legacy that should never be forgotten."

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who is blind, said: "Jack Ashley was a pioneer who set aside his disability and by doing so forged a path which others, including me, have been able to follow.

Jackie Ballard, chief executive of Action on Hearing Loss - formerly the RNID - praised Ashley's contribution as the organisation's president. "Jack was a great role model to anyone with hearing loss. He was such a gentleman, very kind and very giving," she said.

Lord Ashley is survived by his three daughters, Jackie Ashley, Jane Ashley, and Caroline Ashley.

Guardian columnist Jackie wrote on Twitter of her "wonderful, brave and adored father. The whole Ashley family deeply touched by wonderful tributes to our late father. Thank you all so much".

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