Madeline, Jim, Jenni, Steve and Ross are directors of Disabled People’s Voice. Each of us lives with a disability, but our aim is to live independently.
Together, we have many years of living with and around various kinds of disability, each with its own set of challenges. We want to help Disabled People to help themselves, and we want to encourage more people to get involved, by working as Personal Assistants, or by raising general understanding of the challenges that Disabled People typically face every day.
Scroll down or click on the photos to read our stories
Bsc (Hons), Dip. Comp.
When sight loss ended Madeline’s nursing career in New Zealand, she travelled extensively before settling in the UK.
Madeline spent 14 years in IT, working as a Business Analyst and as a Delivery Manager before another change of direction when she became a disability representative on the Hampshire Independent Equality Forum. For 4 years Madeline was the Voluntary Sector and Diverse Communities Officer for Healthwatch Hampshire and sat on the Hampshire Voluntary Sector Consortium. Currently Madeline serves on the Wessex Local Eye Health Network and is the disability representative on the Hampshire Leadership Forum.
‘I’ve always been engaged in volunteering e.g. as a campaigner for the RNIB and as a speaker for Guide Dogs. I’ve always been a disability activist. I particularly enjoy devising creative ways to get the message across, such as using Braille and Nepalese to give health professionals a taste of information in inaccessible formats. Perhaps my greatest asset is the ability to work with diverse groups and individuals to highlight access issues, challenge attitudes and influence service delivery.’
In October 2018 Madeline graduated from the Hampshire School for Social Entrepreneurs, a year-long programme, she undertook to help grow Disabled People’s Voice. Madeline is a trustee of Disability Rights UK.
When she isn’t raising awareness of the issues Disabled People face or complaining about parking on pavements Madeline enjoys gardening, making felt or attending the theatre.
Msc FIHE MILT MCIHT MTPS
Jim is a freelance consultant specialising in highways and transport accessibility for people with any kind of disability / impairment.
Jim started his career in 1989 as a civil engineering technician, working on a wide range of highways and transportation projects in both the public and private sector, latterly working as a highway design engineer and also in highway asset management.
Whilst doing volunteer care work in his spare time, Jim became interested in accessibility matters, including becoming involved with his local access group (of which he was chair for 4 years). This access group undertakes a wide range of projects, particularly in the heritage sector, but they also work with local businesses and services providers to make all aspects of our daily lives as accessible as possible for those with any kind of impairment.
When Jim returned to university in 2011 to do a master’s degree in transport planning, it was only natural that his research project would involve transport accessibility.
Since graduating, Jim has been involved with a number of access auditing and other access consultancy projects in the highways and transport sector.
In addition to being a fellow of the Institute of Highway Engineers Jim is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (where he sits on their Access and Inclusion Forum), a member of the Chartered Institute of Highways & Transportation and is a member of the Access Association.
Jim has had a visual impairment since birth and is registered as ‘blind’.
BAed QTS (Hons)
Jenni is a powerchair user, having developed severe Rheumatoid Arthritis in her last year at university. She qualified as a primary school teacher and worked in both urban and rural schools for 9 years before taking ill-health retirement.
Since then, she has volunteered as a Disabled Parent Champion and served on the board of POTATO group which she helped found. POTATO stands for Parents of Traumatised Adopted Teenagers Organisation. Jenni has worked for a charity project assisting adults with learning disabilities with meaningful work, writing their GDPR policy and procedures.
Jenni lives with her husband, their youngest daughter, two pet cats and Canine Partner LBE. They have adopted young people who are now adults. Jenni employs two PAs, with some help from direct payments, one to do her personal care and the other to support her with other social tasks.
Her experience with online forums is extensive with expertise in social media platforms. She has written content for various blogs and websites. She has tdeveloped and presented numerous training sessions on a variety of subjects. Several of her written articles have been published. Jenni has experience in fundraising and grant applications.
Currently, she works part time for a local charity doing their digital marketing. She also tutors primary aged children who have extra needs or who have fallen behind at school to help them catch up. These roles allow her to engage in practical creative solutions with people who need some support in life.
Personally, Jenni enjoys playing her adapted flute in a local concert band. She really enjoys sewing and craft, history and taking her Canine Partner out for walks in her powerchair. Jenni likes going to the theatre and comedy. Jenni and her family are members of St Thomas’ Church. Jenni believes in helping people and being kind. She enjoys cooking and sharing her time with family and friends.
Jenni is outgoing, enthusiastic and has a “can do” attitude, demonstrated through all she does.
Steve, aka “Heidi’s Dad”, was born and grew up in Dundee. Visually impaired since birth, he attended both “special” and mainstream schools. “Going from one to the other was a real culture shock,” he says, “but the result is that I can appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of both.”
After leaving university, where he studied English, he freely admits that he just “drifted” for a few years. “I never really got round to trying to answer the question, “What now?”, says Steve. Although unemployed, he was involved in several small local charities and became known for playing at local folk clubs.
It’s fair to say that January 2011 was somewhat of a turning point, His decision to attend an RNIB course in Edinburgh had two major consequences. Firstly, he met Madeline and secondly, he decided to apply for his first guide dog. Eventually, both events led to two, quite different, life-changing partnerships.
A year later, Steve and Heidi passed through guide dog training, and in July, Steve moved down to Hampshire. Perhaps not as much of a shock to the system as changing schools, as he did get used to English life, and English beer, remarkably quickly.
Since then, Steve has grown quite a lot in confidence and experience. He has been chair of trustees of a local charity for adults with learning disabilities and/or mental health issues, been involved with campaigning at a local and national level and, of course, is also a director of Disabled People’s Voice. “People can change the world,” he says, “even if it’s only a little bit at a time.”
Steve is also editor of his village magazine and, in what little spare time he has, enjoys cooking, both listening to and playing music, reading and drinking tea.
With a lifetime’s experience of living with a disability and seven years of living independently, Ross has participated in many disability awareness projects.
He has been an independent consultant for seven years specializing in the disability field working with statutory authorities, the third sector as well as private healthcare companies and other commercial organisations.
Ross is an innovative trainer and thinker who is dedicated to bringing about a greater understanding of all aspects of disability and improvements through the co-ordination of services. He wants to see Disabled People of all ages have better opportunities in education and achieve financial independence.
Ross has worked for the Treloar Trust, which provides education, care, therapy, medical support and independence training to young people with physical disabilities from all over the UK and overseas. Their aim is to prepare young people for adult life, giving them the confidence and skills to achieve their full potential. Ross supported young people to find work experience to help them think about what they may like to do after leaving Treloar’s.
Ross now works within the NHS in IPS (Individual Placement and Support) which is an evidence-based approach to supported employment for people who have a mental illness. IPS supports people in their efforts to achieve steady, meaningful employment in mainstream competitive jobs, either part-time or full-time.
Ross’s hobbies include swimming, travelling to the sun, wining and dining with friends and family.
Born in April 2012 into Irish Guide Dogs, LBE was quickly talent scouted for his sensitive nature, quick thinking and devotion to dogs, people and to all things edible. Not necessarily in that order.
LBE is said “Elle Bee” and he is named after his sponsor, Lee Brown Events. His midlands-based puppy parents explain that although not the easiest pup they have helped train, he was certainly memorable. We understand that he still owes them a piece of skirting board.
LBE joined Jenni and her family in January 2014. Being in a household often full of children and people is a lot of fun but mostly LBE enjoys being as close to Jenni as is physically possible. LBE’s favourite task is food preparation supervisor. LBE is very handy for retrieving dropped items and even picked up the trumpet players music in the band for which Jenni plays the flute. This was in the middle of a concert and the audience clapped and cheered. LBE now believes all clapping is for him.
He likes getting his jacket and lead on because it means he is going out with Jenni. LBE is ruled over by two cats. Mog is a dainty silver tabby and tiny. She is in charge. Often, she curls up on top of LBE on his bed. Tubs is a stocky rescued cat and he comes in and nudges LBE with affection on the way to his cat food. LBE gives them a big lick so they look like they have Mohicans.
At the supermarket LBE wags his tail at all the people. When he is concentrating on getting a tin of beans off the shelf, the wag is in check, but the moment that tin is in the basket LBE likes to demonstrate how pleased he is with himself. The tail is off into a frenzy of wags.
At work, LBE has a stash of essential Bonio’s and he takes the post round to the office, collects the photocopying and even hands over the cash receipts. He likes to lie in a very sunny place and toast both sides and then lie on something cool to sizzle. Then he toasts again.
He has done several video clips and doggy bloggy pieces when on his holidays.
Dislikes include; deep water, water with waves, being away from my pack, buzzing things, Jalapeno sky raisins, staying in too much and long journeys.
LBE once rescued Jenni when she had broken her leg after falling and got her the phone and blanket.
LBE says: “I am the cheeriest, waggiest and goodest of boys.”
From the start, it was clear that Heidi was a true individualist. No mean feat, coming from a litter of eleven…
For example, her puppy-walker in Bannockburn tells of how she could manage to unfasten her puppy cage from the inside in order to go exploring. This problem-solving streak continued through training, where she solved the problem of boring classes by secretly nibbling through the bottom of dog food bags.
Always one to plan ahead, Heidi had the foresight to take advantage of a traditional Scottish education and attend training in Forfar. Since graduating in January 2012 she has been with Steve, who moved down to Hampshire that July. Although her new sister, Tamara, was not too impressed at their first meeting – something to do with H resting her front paws on Madeline’s shoulders – they soon became the best of friends.
Heidi has proven to be an excellent partner for Steve. Her enthusiasm to work and to explore new places is undiminished. “I do love going into town,” she says, “especially when I figure out that we’re going to the railway station!”. Her main talent, however, is showing off. Her biggest thrill is pulling off a clever piece of work, like guiding Steve around an off-kerb obstacle, even if her approach is not always strictly orthodox. Her only flaw, if you can call it that, is that she thinks the word “beautiful” is always directed at her. “What can I say? If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” remains her mantra.
Outside of work, Heidi enjoys posing, practical jokes and shoes. She has also written for her village magazine, commenting frequently on a variety of issues. You can also follow her on Twitter – @tHeidi_S_Taylor – to keep updated on her latest projects.