An Abbots Langley woman, who has used her disability to succeed in life, has been honoured with a prestigious award.

Julie Howell, of Long Elms, was recognised as “Alumnus of the Year 2012”, by the Brighton Graduate Association (BGA) of the University of Brighton at a special ceremony on Thursday last week.

The 40-year-old was among 29 past alumni shortlisted for the award, which celebrates professional success demonstrated by notable career achievements, extraordinary community involvement, outstanding personal achievement and significant volunteerism or philanthropy.

Ms Howell, who runs a social media training company, said the accolade came as a complete surprise.

Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis while in her final year studying Library and Information Studies at Brighton, she used her condition to spur herself on, by setting up a website for people with disabilities, making a name within the social media arena, and acting as a mentor for others.

This is not the first time she has been recognised with such a high accolade, in fact, this will be her fifth lifetime achievement award.

But for Ms Howell, the awards ceremony, held at Brighton Dome, was particularly special as her idol, singer Nick Cave was present.

She said: “Nick was being presented with an honorary degree.

“I got to meet him and he was gracious and lovely.

“I had an amazing day in Brighton, when I found out I had won the award, I couldn’t believe it. I’m not talented academically, I just work really hard.”