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Trustees

Martin Stevens OBE - Chair

Martin Stevens

Following his diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis, in 1995, he volunteered at local level for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. In the 20 years since that he has volunteered at all levels of the MS Society, finishing a board term in December 2013.

He is currently serving as a Trustee for the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation.

In addition to a lived experience of disability and that gained through volunteer work nationally and internationally, he has a range of business skills gained from the workplace. His background is in accountancy and business management with a large multinational.

Martin lives with his wife, Margit, in Cheshire, they have two teenage children. 

Mostafa Attia

Mostafa Attia

I am a disabled activist with a solid academic and professional understanding of inclusive disability politics. My lived experience of barriers inspired me to advocate for disabled people rights. My journey included obtaining both an MA and PhD on inclusive disability studies and inclusive development from Leeds University along with international consultancies to design mainstream disabled people rights in national policies.

Chairing of Leeds DPO (UK) along with my membership in the center of disability studies in Leeds in addition to the above informed me with the cycle in which people's demands could be elevated to into policy and strategy frameworks.

I have a history of 15 years of work, where inclusive development projects have been led, and training has been provided to different stakeholders related to disability. During this, I have particularly focused on the development of DPOs capacities with the aim to solidify the national disability movements in different countries. As a disabled activist who participated during the Egyptian revolution events, I was able to mainstream our rights within the country constitution for the first time. This was also the case with many to other consequent policies.  

Lesley Baliga - Honarary Treasurer

Lesley Baliga

Lesley is a chartered certified accountant and has enjoyed a varied career across the private, public and third sectors.

Having worked as an interim Finance Director for many years (including at DR UK from 2011-2013) she now works as an independent consultant providing financial management support and advice to charities and not for profit organisations with a specific focus on the health and social care sector.

Jo Becker

Jo Becker

Jo was diagnosed with a progressive, untreatable muscle disease in her late twenties, prompting her to consider her priorities. She now works to enable everybody to feel able to pursue the things that matter to them, regardless of impairment.

Through Disability & Inclusion consulting and charitable work, Jo supports organisations to meet the needs of disabled people, breaking down barriers to change long-held and inaccurate societal attitudes about what disabled people can and cannot do.

With a corporate background in Marketing & Communications, Jo is skilled at understanding people, their needs, and how best to reach them. Combining this with an MA in Disability Studies, she hopes to share the (to her, astonishing) truth that despite 1 in 5 people in the UK identifying as disabled, and despite the fact that anyone can become temporarily disabled at any time, the needs of disabled people don’t seem to be a societal priority. It is time for this to change. 

Atif Choudhury

Atif Choudhury

Atif Choudhury is an award-winning social entrepreneur, with a background in economic justice and disability inclusion projects. Focussing on the inclusion of marginalised communities, Atif has worked a number of high profile grassroots social development projects across the UK, the Middle East and Asia.

He is the co-founder and CEO of Diversity and Ability (DnA) and Zaytoun CiC (the World’s first Fairtrade Palestinian olive oil cooperative), as well as serving as a trustee for the anti-poverty charity War on Want until 2017.

Drawing on his personal experience of dyslexia, Atif forged his path in the field of assistive technology starting as a 1-to-1 trainer and specialist study skills tutor. He then went on to co-found the award-winning disabled-led social enterprise, Diversity and Ability (DnA), which works to minimise the social exclusion of disabled/neurodiverse individuals across the UK, in the education, charitable and corporate sectors.

DnA provides one-to-one support, consultancy and disability-focused training for individuals, businesses, universities, public sector, trade unions, charities and think-tanks.

DnA is a disabled-led social enterprise that involves end-users in the training process, eliminating a top-down approach that can often lead to powerlessness and irrelevancy. Using a cross-subsidy model, DnA invests 50% or more of profits back into the business, paying for social justice projects through commercial income. This enables support of some of the UK’s most vulnerable homeless and unemployed communities.

DnA was nominated Social Enterprise of the Year in the 2012 awards and Atif was also nominated as a social entrepreneur of excellence in 2015 in the National Diversity Awards. In 2018 DnA received the Unltd award Grow award for its campaign work on tackling the disability gap, as well as much coveted Noon award at the 2018 Global `Equality and Diversity awards.

Atif is keen to highlight the importance of an intersectional approach in pushing for disability rights and equality. He is adamant that socio-economics, class, race, gender and culture must be part of the discussion in forging new policies and systems that work for everyone.

Madeline Close BSc (Hons), Dip. Comp

Madeline Close

When sight loss ended my nursing career in New Zealand, I travelled extensively before settling in the UK, where I re-trained as a programmer.  I spent 14 years in IT, working as a Business Analyst and as a Delivery Manager before another change of direction when I became a disability representative on the Hampshire Independent Equality Forum.  For 4 years I was the Voluntary Sector and Diverse Communities Officer for Healthwatch Hampshire and sat on the Hampshire Voluntary Sector Consortium.  Currently I serve on Wessex Local Eye Health Network.

I’ve always been engaged in volunteering e.g. as a campaigner for the RNIB, a speaker for Guide Dogs and 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 the greatest asset I offer is the ability to work with diverse groups and individuals to highlight access issues, challenge attitudes and influence service delivery.  

In October 2018 I graduated from the Hampshire School for Social Entrepreneurs having helped found Disabled People’s Voice, which is a user-led co-operative.

Frances Hasler - Vice Chair

Frances Hasler

Frances Hasler is currently Director of Healthwatch Camden, vice-Chair of Disability Rights UK and a lay board member of her local Clinical Commissioning Group, in Sussex.

She was the co-founder of the National Centre for Independent Living (now part of DRUK).  She has held varied voluntary and public posts, and has also worked for government organisations, promoting user involvement in policy making and in services.

Shelley Simmonds FRSA

Shelley

Shelley is Mum to her daughter April and son Fraser. In 2014 when Fraser was a young baby, the family were told that he has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic muscle-wasting condition causing life-long physical disability.

As a parent carer, Shelley has become an active advocate, campaigner and ally for the disability community, striving to improve society perceptions of inclusion, accessibility and equality – she actively wants to change the future for her son and others like him to ensure there are fulfilling and equal life opportunities waiting. Through her many social media writings Shelley educates about her ‘different normal’ and how others can become more accepting of disability; she believes she has learned more about life in the years since having her son, than she did in all of the 33 before he came along, and she is committed to using her own circumstances for a greater good.

Shelley has spoken at many public engagements to raise the profile of living with a disability, receiving a life-changing diagnosis and having a rare disease: the Houses of Parliament both in England and Scotland, NICE, NHS England, the Department for Transport and the Festival of Genomics. However, her most treasured accomplishment was climbing Snowdon carrying Fraser all the way to the top on her back to give him the feeling of a physical achievement that he might otherwise not have experienced.

Shelley’s professional background is in governance, operations and HR, working as a Company Secretary in London. She is also a Rare Disease Patient Advocate for Genomics England, sitting on their Patient Participant Panel and Ethics Advisory Committee.

Greg Smith

Greg

Greg currently runs his own user experience strategy, user research & design consultancy, having held previous roles as Head of User Experience at ebay Europe, Director of User Research at a leading digital agency & founded & sold on a retailer of inclusively designed products. Previously he was Head of Strategy, Research and Business Planning at the former Disability Rights Commission.

As well as a Trustee at Disability Rights UK, he is also a Trustee and Vice Chair of SHINE, the largest Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus membership charity in England, Wales & Northern Ireland and volunteers at his local furniture recycling scheme in Richmond, London. Greg holds a MSc in Human Computer Interaction & a BSc in Engineering & Business Studies.

Laura Swainbank

Laura

Laura was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 19. During her 13 years of lived experience, she has been shocked again and again at the many barriers faced by disabled people and how often their needs go unrepresented.

In the years since her diagnosis, she has also discovered the enormous power that lies within the disabled community, with over 14 million people identifying as disabled in the UK. She hopes to help DRUK harness the power of this community’s mighty voice in calling for much-needed change. 

With a professional background in Marketing & Communications, Laura understands how to get the right message to the right audience and make disabled people's voices heard. Her skillset will help bring DRUK’s important work to a wider audience still, so that the needs of the disabled community cannot be ignored.

Rob Trent Bsc - Chair People & Governance Committee

Rob Trent

Rob is married and has a daughter. He worked for Ordnance Survey in Southampton for over 30 years in IT and Risk Management, until retiring in June 2018.

Rob loves painting landscapes, and is an artist with the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. He also runs an accessibility business called AccessAdvisr (website https://accessadvisr.net/), and is a co-founder of CityMaaS, a startup with the vision of enabling frictionless and spontaneous travel for disabled people.

As well as being a Trustee with Disability Rights UK, Rob is also a Governor at Treloar's School and College, and Flat Spaces, a charity providing holiday accommodation for severely disabled people.

In his spare time Rob likes family holidays and watching AFC Bournemouth.