The Bristol Sight Loss Council held its launch event on 28th March 2019 and has proved popular with members signing up fast and holding their first meeting in May 2019. We look forward to seeing what they achieve in the future. Read on to find out more about the team and the first meeting. 

Meet the Staff

Alun Davies

Image of Alun, sight loss council managerAlun is the Engagement Manager for the Bristol Sight Loss Council and he has been totally blind since losing his sight at 14. Alun has a long history of improving the lives of people with disabilities since getting involved with campaigns at University in the 1980s. In 1991, Alun moved to Bristol to work in community engagement for people with disabilities, aiming to break down barriers to society. As a former Councillor, Alun is well connected to the local community in Bristol and has vast work experience including working for a local authority in social services, a health service board and writing for the local newspaper.

Meet the Council Members

Shelagh Austin

Image of Shelagh, Sight Loss Council member

Shelagh was diagnosed with Stargardt disease at 16 - an form of early onset Macular Degeneration - and received absolutely no support. A careers adviser told her to go into Blind Placements as a career and a social worker advised she should not go to University.

Shelagh went against that advice and took a degree at Keele University and then later trained as a counsellor at Aston University, then as a Social Worker in Bristol. She has also trained as a psychodramatist/psychotherapist.

Shelagh has worked in the voluntary sector, social care sector and the health service, concluding her career in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service.

Shelagh feels she is fairly idle in retirement, she enjoys gardening and allotmenting, reading, travelling and seeing friends. She stopped being a school governor in spring which has allowed more time for her to be involved with Bristol Sight Loss Council.

Jeff Daniels

Image of Jeff, Sight Loss Council member

Jeff feels as though he has had three distinctive parts to his life, pre-sight impairment, sight impaired and then severely sight impaired. He first worked at 14 in his parents’ newsagent, then took up an apprenticeship as an electrician where worked for a number of years. At 19 Jeff had three retinal detachments in 9 months and lost the sight completely in his left eye. After a partial detachment at the age of 27 of the retina in the right eye (which was repaired using laser treatment), he was able to return to work. However, at 30 another detachment although treated resulted in blind spots in Jeff's vision, which meant he had to give up driving and being an electrician.

Originally from Pembrokeshire, he moved to Bristol in 1993. With the support and assistance of the RNIB, Jeff was able to take part in training, college and University eventually returning to the world of work. Since then he has worked for The Ministry Of Defence (MOD), the RNIB and Action for Blind People, all of which have a Technology slant - more specifically assistive technologies and training. So technology is where Jeff's knowledge and experiences are.

Outside of volunteering with the Sight Loss Council, Jeff is part of a jamming session group where he plays guitar. He also teaches guitar to a small group of sight impaired and severely sight impaired ladies. He is a member of the planning group for the Dark City Project (at PECo Theatre in Bristol) and he became a member the Sight Loss Council to work towards creating positive awareness and changes for his local community.

Jerry Floyd

Image of Jerry, Sight Loss Council member

Jerry was born with Optic Atrophy, a condition that involves a deterioration in the optic nerve and results in a good field of vision but with a greatly impaired ability to see detail. This has progressed throughout Jerry's life and he is now registered as Severely Sight Impaired.

Jerry is a family man, enjoying a range of leisure activities that include reading (on his Kindle with huge fonts - he considers this to be his saviour!), keeping fit, going on holidays, running and being actively involved with his local Rotary Club. This consists of organising various events with young people and the community. He is married with two children and three grandchildren who are a delight to be with (well, most of the time anyway!)

Jerry received no support at school and learnt that he would need to be independent and resilient and not “to make a fuss”. He took a degree in Civil Engineering which he feels was a crazy thing for someone with low vision to do as driving was essential. Jerry achieved the degree and then qualified as an accountant. He spent most of his corporate career in a variety of senior financial management roles, but at age 48 he retired and set himself up as a self-employed accountant serving a client base that he progressively built up from scratch. He is now reducing his workload so that he can work part-time and develop other areas of interest, like the Sight Loss Council. Jerry is also a trustee of a local charity that helps adults with learning difficulties.

Phil Gingell

Image of Phil, Sight Loss Council member

Phil is totally blind as a result of Marfan Syndrome. Both his retinas detached in 1980, and he lost the sight in his left eye immediately. Luckily the retina in his right eye tore and did not completely detach. Phil had 3 operations over a period of 9 months, 2 in Bristol and the final one at Moorfields Eye Hospital, in London. He was off work from April 1980 until January 1981, but finally returned as a Senior Insurance Officer for NatWest Insurance Services.  Phil was made redundant in 2001 so retrained in IT at Bristol City College. He got an administrative job with Bristol City Council in 2005 and worked for them until he retired in 2018.

Phil enjoys reading - audio books and downloads of course; listening to music, arguing politics; most team sports (he watches Gloucestershire cricket over the summer and says another trip to Lords would be nice) and not forgetting his love of real ale also! During the winter he has season tickets for Bristol Rovers and Bristol Rugby. Until the end of 2014, Phil rowed for Bristol Gig Club but has now retired.

Anela Wood

Image of Anela, Sight Loss Council member

Anela is Bristol born and bred and was born with Congenital Glaucoma, although she had some sight until the age of 19. Anela grew up in a large family with her parents and 5 siblings, who have always encouraged and supported her to be independent and ambitious.

Anela started off in a specialist school in south Bristol before moving into mainstream education from the age of 11. She completed her GCSEs before going on to City of Bristol College where she got 3 A-levels in Law, Sociology and English. I then went onto study a 3 year Bachelors degree in English at The University of the West of England where she graduated with an Upper Second Class degree.

Since then she has kept busy with a variety of paid and voluntary roles and courses. These range from administration, event planning, public speaking, fundraising, campaigning, journalism, public relations and so on.

In her free time, Anela enjoys seeing family and friends, going to the cinema and the theatre, walking when the weather is nice, travelling, reading mostly romance novels and childrens’ books, listening to all types of music, shopping to indulge her love of fashion and looking after her home, which features an ever-evolving tropical aquarium!

Anela is looking forward to working with the Sight Loss Council to help make the necessary changes needed in her local community, to make it more accessible to for blind and partially sighted residents.

Kathy Baxter

Kathy is a single parent of 2 grown children and one grandson and is severely sight impaired. For 7 years Kathy was a special needs teacher, she opened and ran the disability department in her school. This involved training staff, managing medications, physio, equipment, and adapting lessons amongst other duties. Kathy then went to Bristol Royal Infirmary to train as a nurse and became a High Dependency Nurse and Dementia Nurse. Kathy loved this job until 9 years ago she lost my sight overnight due to a massive stroke, and like many sighted people, knew nothing about vision impairment.

She is now a Governor at University Hospital Bristol Foundation Trust in which Kathy uses all of her previous skills to support and make informed changes for the wellbeing and care of the patients and staff. From this work, she is a member of several community committees and very involved in improving healthcare in Bristol. Kathy is now an RNIB facilitator which involves being a qualified Sight Awareness lecturer and trainer; she uses her life skills to support and train vision impaired people - explaining the practicalities of sight loss to them.

Kathy trains medical staff at various levels how to interact with blind and partially sighted people and also lectures to medical students at the University of Bristol and University of the West of England. Kathy is part of the refurbishment team at Bristol Eye Hospital. She has given advice and insights on all aspects of the hospital, including training, environment, letters, signage, lighting and much more. Kathy is seriously invested in making the right changes in the hospital at the planning stage and feels there is still much to do. Kathy says she loves what she does and gets a real sense of achievement when someone listens and acts on her advice!

Steve Ewens

Stebe is in his 50s and has been registered as severely sight impaired since the year 2000 as a result of Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). Steve was educated in mainstream schools in North Bristol and after completing A levels and went straight into full time work.

He worked for a series of insurance companies until he retired in 2013. In his career, Steve spent over 20 years in management roles, including all aspects of people, team, task and project management.

Since leaving work, Steve has volunteered for RNIB in a variety of customer facing and administrative roles. Steve has helped train junior doctors in visual impairment awareness and also helps test websites for accessibility from a sight loss perspective.

Steve lives in West Bristol with his partner, Jenny. His interests include listening to music, learning Spanish and travelling both in the UK and abroad. Steve goes to the gym regularly and also enjoys walking and tandem cycling.

Jenny Hodges

Jenny Hodges and is totally blind following a car crash in 1995. She left school at 16 and worked as an office junior at a Stockbrokers in Bristol. She worked there in various departments for 10 years before being made redundant. After a short stint as a receptionist at the Chesterfield Hospital, Jenny then went on to become a Restaurant Manager which she loved! In February 1995, Jenny's life changed rather dramatically following a car accident. After rehabilitation and learning to live again, Jenny had to change her outlook on life in order to stay positive.

She first volunteered with Bristol Royal Society for the Blind on their See-Saw Appeal, helping to fundraise to for the Society. Jenny attended College to learn the JAWS system and passed her examinations with the hope of getting a job. Jenny has done several voluntary posts within RNIB over the years, and is still a volunteer Campaign Co-ordinator for them.

Jenny enjoys tandem riding with Lifecycle, socialising, holidays and getting my teeth stuck into things of importance that need changing. Jenny is looking forward to helping things progress for blind and partially sighted people locally.

Liz Illingworth

Since 2001, when her sight loss issues lead to her retirement, Jenny has had a number of volunteering roles with RNIB and Action for Blind People. The first being the Access to Arts project - where she liaised with local theatres and galleries. She still provides information about described arts events to Vision West of England’s events bulletin.

Jenny has been chairing the VI reading group at Bristol Central Library for around 13 years. More recently she helped set up audio described tours of exhibitions at the Royal West of England Academy.

Jenny's other volunteer roles have included: Chair of an RNIB Advisory Group; membership on the Bristol Low Vision Services Committee and being a VI representative on staff interview panels.

Jenny feels that progress made towards making health and other public services accessible has gone backwards during the past decade. She hopes the Sight Loss Council will be able to drive things forward again.

Louise Lifely

Louise moved to Bristol at 2 years old and throughout her teens took Guild Hall acting exams until the age of 18. She then spent almost a year in Italy working and seeing the country. Following this, Louise qualified as a Nurse in 1988 and returned to Bristol. She worked as an agency nurse for a year then went on a year-long working holiday to Australia.

Upon her return to the UK, Louise became manager of a nursing agency then moved on to the Bristol Royal Infirmary, working on The Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit. It was while working here that she noticed a change in her eyesight. Not long after Louise was diagnosed with Diabetic Retinopathy. She underwent intensive treatment and although she lost total sight in one eye, partial sight was saved in the other.

Louise went back to University in Bristol where she studied counselling and has also qualified in complimentary therapies. She became a volunteer for RNIB around 10 years ago, initially as a Befriender. Other volunteering roles included fundraising, administration and supporting patients in the Bristol Eye Hospital. This led Louise to completing Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) qualification. This has given me her broader understanding of support that is available to people with sight loss and the importance of early intervention for them.

Aside from this, Louise is also volunteering as a core divisor for the PECo theatre company which is working on a piece involving blind and partially sighted people.

Holly Thomas

Holly has lived in Bristol for the best part of 20 years. She has partial sight and attended both specialist and mainstream schools. Holly studied Drama at University and then went on to train in dance. Holly is also a qualified social worker.

She has worked as a freelance dance artist and performer for around 20 years. Holly has also worked part-time in health and social care in the statutory and voluntary sector during this time.

Are you an organisation local to Bristol? Do you want to learn more about being inclusive?

Contact Us