About Us

Close up of a black guide dog that is looking at the camera.
About Us

Rachel, Ross and Madeline are directors and founding members of Disabled People’s Voice. Each of us lives with a disability, but our aim is to attain an independent lifestyle.

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, be that by working as Personal Assistants, or by raising general understanding of the challenges that Disabled People typically face every day.

Click on the images or the arrows to find out more about us.

Rachel Harrison

Rachel has a progressive neurological condition. Initially, as a teenager, she was having trouble walking and people assumed she was drunk, but now Rachel uses a wheelchair full time.

Rachel lives alone and employs PAs through direct payments to provide the support she needs. Support with cooking, shopping, around her home, to attend hydrotherapy and the gym and most recently attending meetings. Adapting to new circumstances is vital to keep functioning with a progressive impairment.

Since graduating in Mathematics, Rachel has taken on many governance roles including 8 years as chair of governors in a primary school and 8 years as chair of her local disability forum.

Rachel also participates in the education of healthcare students at the University of Southampton School of Health Sciences. Co-production is one of Rachel’s passions and she regularly works with West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Hampshire Wheelchair Services, NHS England and HCC Adult Health & Care (social services). Rachel is a member of the Hampshire Personalisation Expert Panel and the Hampshire Direct Payments Board.

Rachel enjoys spending time with friends and family. She loves good food and Radio 4. Rachel enjoys being creative and bright colours. Rachel doesn’t spent mental energy on what she can’t do. Rachel enjoys her life and her focus is always on what she can do and how that is useful to wider society.

Ross Smith

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.

Madeline Close

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 representation on the Hampshire Leadership Forum.

‘I’ve always been engaged in volunteering e.g. as a campaigner for the RNIB, a speaker for Guide Dogs. I’ve always been a disability activist. I particularly enjoy devising creative ways to get the message across e.g. 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.

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Disability is natural. Everyone is an accident, a disease, or years away from a long-term health condition.

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