I bring lived experience to this role, with sight loss from birth to hearing loss in recent years and had episodes of depression from time to time.
I have extensive experience of disability issues both professionally and as activist nationally and locally.
Professionally, I started out as Head of Equality for the Greater London Association of Disabled People (GLAD) – now Inclusion London: transforming it into an organisation controlled by disabled people, developing policy on accessible transport, housing and a myriad of other topics.
From here I went to the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) to manage its post-16 education and employment services across the UK, overseeing government contracts on Access to Work, EU development programmes and innovative change projects with large employers.
When the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) was formed in 2000, I joined it as Head of Governance and Special Projects, overseeing the work of the chair and board, cross cutting projects such as implementation of the Disability Rights Taskforce recommendations and co-ordinating the work of British and Irish equality and human rights bodies, which paved the way to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Equality Act (2010).
With the merger in 2007, I moved to EHRC as Head of Programmes responsible for health, local government and politics. This involved working across equality strands, but included some specific policy initiatives on disability, such as EHRC’s response to Winterbourne View where young people with learning disabilities experienced serious abuse and deprivation of liberty.
As an activist I have worked with a wide range of local groups and major national campaigns, from pedestrian safety and access to buildings to benefits reforms and civil rights legislation.
I was active with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), working in conjunction with the former trade union, National League of the Blind and Disabled (NLBD) – now part of community: to campaign for a Blindness Allowance, which subsequently became Disability Living Allowance; improved access to printed material through technological change and reform of copyright law; improvements to the environment with textured paving and audible crossings and automated announcements in lifts and on public transport. In 2010 I became NFB’s President and have represented it internationally at both European Blind Union and World Blind Union conferences, serving on the EU Rights Commission.
I have served on a variety of coalitions that have brought disability organisations together on major campaign issues: for example, being active in Voluntary Organisations for Anti-Discrimination Legislation (VOADL) which was instrumental in securing the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) and the Disability Benefits Consortium that saw the introduction of Disability Living Allowance and more recently tried to minimise the transition to Personal Independence Payments.
I was involved in shaping the social model of disability in its early life and have done much to promote intersectionality. The summary given here will give a flavour to my extensive professional and activist contribution to disability issues national and internationally.
Much of my work has involved policy development, influencing and lobbying, campaign strategy and engagement with diverse members and other stakeholders. Over the last 3 years I have served as a Public Governor with Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, chairing its Advisory Group for the creating of a new integrated clinical, research and education centre. This has involved leading a formal public consultation and representing patients on the Programme Board. It is another example of my experience in working with members and officials at a strategic level.