Birmingham and Black Country Sight Loss Council: Meet the Members

Meet the Staff

Head shot of ouise Connop, Senior Engagement Manager for Central England.

Louise Connop

Louise Connop is the Senior Engagement Manager for Central England. She has been registered Sight Impaired since birth, and Severely Sight Impaired from the age of seven.

Louise enjoys spending time with her two young children and generally living life to the full – travelling and socialising with her friends and family.  She is extremely passionate about raising awareness of visual Impairment (VI) and educating and encouraging the wider world to understand how to become more VI friendly.

Previously Louise worked in marketing, the public sector and ran the Low Vision Department at the Beacon Centre for the Blind in Wolverhampton.

“With the right attitude and support network, we can all achieve whatever we put our minds to” is a phase that Louise uses often.

Ashleigh Bryant, SLC co-ordinator for Central England. Ashleigh is looking at the camera, smiling broadly. She has long brown hair

Ashleigh Bryant

Ashleigh Bryant is the Sight Loss Council Co-ordinator for the West Midlands.

Along with SLC members, Ashleigh helps represent the voice of blind and partially sighted people, supporting them to raise awareness for a more accessible and equal world.

Previous to working in the sight loss sector, she worked in the NHS supporting adults with learning disabilities and mental health.

In her spare time, she enjoys socialising with friends, going to the gym and travelling around the world!

Meet the Members

Headshot of Carl Galloway, Black Country SLC member. He is wearing glasses and near a river.

Carl Galloway

Carl has had sight loss since 2014 due to WKS.  This is a thymine deficiency condition, which causes damage to the brain.

Prior to his sight loss, Carl worked in the steel industry where he had to overcome many obstacles.

Carl joined Black Country SLC in October 2020.  He wants to help people overcome the fear and disappointment when they lose their sight by ensuring everyone has the correct access to services.

As a keen artist in his spare time, Carl has a passion for 3D printing. You can also find him keeping fit and spending time with loved ones.

Clare Williams

Clare Williams

Clare became Severely Sight Impaired over 15 years ago with a form of Macular Degeneration. She has been a guide dog owner for the past nine years.

Clare joined Black Country SLC at the very beginning because she wanted to highlight the challenges faced by VI people within her community.

Clare enjoys taking part in SLC events, forums, and activities.  She is passionate about many issues including transport, travel, health services, and access to restaurants.

In her spare time Clare enjoys singing in her local choir and exploring new places with her guide dog Quita.

Image shows Jagdeep Rana of Black Country Sight Loss Council. Jagdeep has short dark hair, wearing glssses, and standing against a wall.

Jagdeep Rana

Jagdeep joined Black Country SLC during lockdown lockdown 2020.

He had previously been volunteering at a local sight loss charity and wanted to continue to give back to the VI community.  Along with nystagmus, Jagdeep also has moderate learning difficulties and is keen to empower others to reach their potential.  He wants to help ensure everyone has the same access to goods and services in his community.

Outside of volunteering Jagdeep enjoys a ‘good knees up’ and bite to eat with friends.  He is also a keen ten pin bowling playing and has won awards with his team at the National Blind Bowling League.

Lianne McKeon sat at a table reading from a braile book

Lianne McKeon

Lianne has been registered blind since birth with septo-optic dysplasia.  She joined Birmingham Sight Loss council around three years ago and enjoys getting involved in raising awareness and giving feedback about visual impairment in her local community.

Lianne is hoping to start university to study Health and Social Care.  She is a very social person who loves street dance lessons and performances (along with her black labrador guide dog Ralph).

Saturday and Sunday evenings, you can often find Lianne presenting an online radio show for the VIP Lounge.

Close up of Meena Ratu, Black Country SL C member. She is looking down, smiling. She is wearing black sunglasses.

Meena Ratu

Meena has been registered VI all her life as she was born with congenital glaucoma.  As well as being registered Severely Sight Impaired she is also deaf in her leaf ear.

Meena is passionate about encouraging other people to live the lives they wish to lead.

She joined Black Country SLC in October 2020 after volunteering for a local sight loss charity for a couple of years.

Outside of volunteering Meena enjoys socialising with friends, spending quality time with her family, listening to music and swimming.

Headshot of Paul Hopkins, Birmingham SLC member. He is wearing a black shirt.

Paul Hopkins

Paul is registered blind and started volunteering with Birmingham Sight Loss Council in late 2020.

He brings his lived experience and pragmatism to encourage positive change for other visually impaired people in his community.

He works in the production department of a national charity for young adults with disabilities and spends much of his personal time encouraging other blind and partially sighted people to advocate for their own independence and autonomy.

In his spare time Paul enjoys listening to music, playing keyboard / piano, singing, travelling, and being by the seaside.

Headshot of Steve Keith, Birmingham SLC member.

Steve Keith

Steve has been registered blind all his life and has no useful vision.  He joined the Birmingham Sight Loss Council two years ago primarily to increase the services available to blind and partially sighted people in and around Birmingham.

Steve has a background in counselling, specialising in drug and alcohol addiction. He has also previously worked as a holistic therapist.

In his spare time Steve enjoys watching Formula 1, rock climbing and participating in outdoor activities.

Headshot of Taryn Marshall. she has shoulder length hair and is wearing a black, sleeveless top.

Taryn Marshall

Taz has been sight impaired since birth with congenital cataracts and nystagmus.

Throughout her career she has been in customer facing roles and joined the Birmingham Sight Loss Council in October 2020 to make a positive difference to the wider VI community in her area.

Taz has a passion for people and wants to show the world that you can still live a fulfilled life with sight loss.

In her spare time, she enjoys walking, running and generally keeping fit.  If she is not out exercising you can find her enjoying a cheeky gin or two in one of the city’s bars.

Headshot of Trish Gracesmith, Birmingham and Black Country SLC member.

Trish Gracesmith

Trish lost her sight after having a stroke. Before this, she worked for a network engineering company.

After Trish was diagnosed with a type of retinopathy, she was directed to Sandwell Visually Impaired charity. Here she joined one of their social groups and began VI archery. Trish has recently been invited to participate in the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) world games.

Trish joined Black Country SLC because she believes talking and meeting others is a positive force. She also feels that being a Sight Loss Council member will provide her with a skill set that can help get her back in the workforce.

Trish is particularly interested in campaigns that promote e-scooters safety, pavement parking, and the AIS campaigns – such as making COVID test kits more accessible to patients.

Image shows Birmingham SLC member, Val Griffiths, looking at the camera, smiling. She has light brown hair and is wearing glasses.

Val Griffiths

Valerie has Retinitis Pigmentosa and started to lose her sight in her mid-forties. She has little sight left, only just seeing light and dark.

Valerie is well travelled, having lived in Nigeria, Paris, Toulouse, and various places within the UK. Following a career with House of Fraser and more recently, Sally Oak Hospital, Valerie started volunteering for local charity, Focus.  Now a trustee, Valerie makes weekly befriending calls to service users to support them with their sight loss journey.

Valerie joined Birmingham SLC as she wants to work on campaigns at a local and national level. Valerie wants to help the wider sight loss community and feels the work and reach of Sight Loss Councils can enable this. She wants to ensure that blind and partially sighted people can lead safer and more independent lives.

During her free time, Valerie enjoys theatre trips, opera, dining out, and drinking champagne!

Martine Caffyn

Martine has been sight impaired from birth due to various eye conditions. She was registered as severely sight impaired in 1990

Martine trained in hospitality but could only do work placements in the industry. She found that several employers used her vision impairment as an excuse not to employ her. Martine went on to secure work in a private specialist hospital and in the retail sector before retraining as a Rehabilitation Officer of Visual Impairment (ROVI).

In her spare time, Martine likes to sing in a choir, travel, socialise, walk, golf, and do puzzles.

She said: “I am keen to make more of the general public aware of what blind and partially sighted people can do with some basic, reasonable adjustments and proper equal access.”

Birmingham and Black country SLC member, Tony Breach. Tony is facing the camera, smiling.

Tony Breach

Tony was registered blind in 1992. He was diagnosed with albinism and nystagmus, and only has light sensitivity. He lives in Birmingham with his second guide dog, Dudley.

Tony specialises in computers and has previously studied an NVQ in production assembly training and manufacturing.

Tony enjoys listening to audio books, playing around with computers, watching TV – especially 1980s TV shows, and also likes swimming and chatting with friends online.

Tony said: “I am happy to be joining Birmingham and Black Country Sight Loss Council. I want to help make the region a better, and safer place, for blind and partially sighted people to live.”

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