Madeline, Jim, and Steve 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’.
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.
Having trained in Bristol with Madeline, Sudbury joined the team in May 2023. Some dogs may have been daunted to learn that they were following in the footsteps of such guide dog stars as Tamara and Deano, but Sudbury has thrown herself into her new role with confidence. She has also slotted in well with her new ‘family’, Steve’s working dog, Poppy, and, of course, his retired dog, Heidi.
“I suppose we’d better get the ‘What an odd name!’ thing out of the way first,” says Sudbury with a sigh, “It’s a Guide Dogs thing. I’m a sponsored dog and I’m named after the English town. I think Mummy’s grateful I didn’t come from Wales…”
Although there was a lot to learn about her new life, Sudbury picked up things quickly and, with a bit of encouragement, learned to put them down again. “If the guide dog thing hadn’t worked out,” says Sudbury, “I think I’d have tried to be a sous chef!”. In what spare time she has, Sudbury enjoys sunbathing, swimming and, like the rest of the household, relaxing with a true crime podcast.
Poppy joined the DPV team in February 2023, when she became Steve’s second guide dog. Having been born, bred and trained in Cardiff, she overcame the language barrier and quickly proved to be equally adept at negotiating physical barriers in her daily work.
“It’s been a lot to take in.”, admits Poppy, “One Day, I’m being put through my paces at guide dog school, then I’m taken to a hotel to train with my new DaddY. If that isn’t enough to deal with, I’m shipped off to Hampshire to move in with Daddy, Mummy and my new big sister!”. Poppy’s “big sister”, Steve’s retired dog, Heidi, adapted nicely to her new domestic arrangements, took “Pops” under her wing (“paw”, surely?) and began to pass on everything she has learned in her long and eventful working life. Although Steve is pleasantly relieved to see “his girls’ getting on so famously, he hopes that Poppy doesn’t follow all of Heidi’s advice…
Not long after moving to Hampshire, Poppy was joined by Madeline’s new guide dog, Sudbury. “Another big change,”, says Poppy, “but it’s the best of both worlds! I have a colleague who I can work with and another friend I can play with. And we both have Heidi for advice and support.”
Poppy enjoys her work, especially showing her mastery of off-kerb obstacles and going to new places. Out of harness, she enjoys sunbathing, log fires and snuggling down with Heidi to listen to a good book or true crime podcast.