Greater Manchester

The Greater Manchester Sight Loss Council was launched in March 2020. The council has brought together blind and partially sighted volunteers from across the region to advocate for the needs of visually impaired people in the area.

Each volunteer has chosen a priority area to focus on from our themes of education, employment, Health and social care, Sport and Leisure, Transport and Technology.

If you are interested in finding out more information about volunteering for the Sight Loss Councils, read the Volunteer Role Description below and fill in our short expression of interest form. If you would like to apply to become a Sight Loss Council member, apply online.

Volunteer Role Description Sight Loss Council Member (DOCX, 60 KB)

Meet the staff

Matt Cliff

Matt Cliff

Matt is the Engagement Manager for the North West and is a former member of the Merseyside Sight Loss Council.

Matt has been visually impaired all of his life as his sight has continually deteriorated. As a visually impaired person, Matt has competed in many sports events ranging from local, grass-roots level games right up to the international stage.  I was fortunate enough to be asked to represent England in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne back in 2006.

In 2009, with a VI friend, Matt set up SAVI Northwest which aims to increase opportunities for sports and activities for visually impaired people as sport and physical activity has had a profoundly positive impact on his life.  As a Merseyside SLC member, Matt used his knowledge of VI sport to advocate for blind and partially sighted people to experience the social and physical benefits sport gave him.

Matt was very shy before participating in VI sport – he says you would not recognise him before he started competing! Matt is a proud father of three daughters and always strives to be an excellent role model to them.

Matt is now looking forward to leading the Greater Manchester SLC in future projects and campaigns to influence positive change for blind and partially sighted people in the North West.

Meet the members

Head and shoulders shot of Ada Eravama

Ada Eravama

Ada is a recent performing arts graduate from Liverpool Hope university. She’s a physical theatre performer and director, and will be working on a project with the UK’s largest learning disability theatre company, Mind the Gap as an assistant director.

As a Sight Loss Council member, Ada is interested in advocating for accessibility within the arts. She also has a particular interest in the priority area of transport.

Head and shoulders shot of Anthony Gough

Anthony Gough

Anthony was born in Manchester and is a visually impaired actor and theatre-maker.

In 2015 he graduated with a first-class honours degree in Performing Arts. Since then he has worked at Extant, the UK’s leading theatre company for visually impaired people as well as working as a freelance theatre-maker and facilitator.

In 2018, Anthony set-up Engage2Stage a theatre group based in Bury, Greater Manchester for visually impaired members and their friends.

In his role as a Sight Loss Council volunteer, Anthony is particularly interested in promoting engagement and accessibility across the creative and leisure industries.

Head and shoulders shot of Garry Tunny

Garry Tunny

Gary lost his sight overnight in October 2017. After a year of struggling to find the right support, Gary decided to reach out to his local community and set-up his own support group for visually impaired people.

The group was a great success and is now attended by local sight loss support services. Gary says, “By bringing people together and signposting organisations towards each other much can be achieved to make visually impaired people’s lives a little bit easier.”

As a Greater Manchester Sight Loss Council member, Gary is working in the priority area of technology.

Head and shoulders shot of Maria Booth

Maria Booth

Maria was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at the age of seven.

Maria had to deal with the challenges of gradually losing her sight throughout school and university.  This has given her the passion to help other blind and partially sighted people to get the most out of further and higher education.

Maria is now working as an Enablement Officer for Henshaws and brings her experience of supporting visually impaired people to live more independent lives.

Maria has joined the sight loss council so that she can bring her knowledge and expertise to help others who are living with sight loss overcome the barriers they face every day.

In her spare time, she enjoys Windsurfing and sailing.

Amin Afzal

Amin Afzal

Amin Afzal was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) in 2017.

Amin says “the biggest challenge I had was having to stop driving after 22 years, and to deal with losing my eyesight gradually.  It took me a year to overcome that I be losing my eyesight.

I like to travel to discover and learn about different cultures and history. I also like going for long walks with my family.

I work full time as a network engineer. My employer has been very understanding and accommodating me with a big monitor and ZoomText software.

I joined the sight loss council so that I can bring knowledge and expertise to help others who are living with a visual impairment and to raise awareness about the issues faced by visually impaired people.”

Sophie

Sophie Thornhill

Sophie is visually impaired, and her eye condition is Albinism. She is a former professional cyclist with a Paralympic Gold medal and multiple World Championship gold medals. She has now retired from cycling and currently studying for a history degree at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Sophie is looking forward to bringing her experiences to the Greater Manchester Sight Loss Council and is interested in the key priority area of sport and leisure.

Lora

Lora Fachie MBE

Lora has been visually impaired from birth. Her condition is hereditary, meaning that her mum and both brothers are also blind. She grew up going through mainstream education and developing a real passion for sport. Initially starting out in athletics before discovering tandem cycling while studying physiotherapy at Birmingham University. For the past 11 years Lora has been a member of the British paracycling squad and has represented her country at 2 Paralympic Games and 19 world championships. She is reigning Paralympic Champion and has been crowned world champion 3 times.

Outside of sport, Lora’s other major interest is food. She writes a blog called Blindingly Good Food where she shares lots of healthy recipes, as well as tips and advice on how to be confident in the kitchen when living with sight loss.

She has joined the sight loss council because she wants to not only improve access to sport and leisure for the visually impaired but also improve general health and wellbeing as well.

Mary smiling

Mary Gilbertson

Mary has been gradually losing her sight since childhood, with a further complication of Macular Disease in 2017.

After having children in her 20s, Mary did some voluntary work and went to college, which kickstarted her career in education.

Mary says that her determination and qualifications eventually got her into university, from which she graduated with a 2:1 degree in 2010.

Mary said: “This enabled my confidence to grow and continue my career working in Early Help Services alongside professionals in schools, colleges, health and social care to meet the variety of needs within families.  I am a Church Youth Worker and involved in various Church events throughout the year.”

She retired in 2016 and is now interested in putting her advocacy experience into action as a Sight Loss Council member.

Mary said: “I have advocated on sight loss, mainly on signage due to small print which I have been unable to read.  I would like to put my professional and voluntary experiences to use in promoting the needs of the visually impaired.”

Nina

Nina Chesworth

Nina developed a rare sight condition after contracting the flu virus at 2 years of age. After spending a life trying to correct the sight through surgery in 2009 she had an accident that caused the loss of her right eye. Then in 2018 she had a second accident losing 95% of the retina, leaving her with no sight only a small light perception. Nina also developed Charles Bonnet Syndrome as a result of her sight loss.

Nina has a degree in Design and Art direction and has had a passion for the creative industry. Owning her own jewellery business, then a creative cafe based in Manchester, both of which she had to stop after her sight loss. Wanting to remain creative and sharing the power of mindfulness in different formats she retrained as a holistic therapist to help bring the healing she found from these therapies to others.

Setting up her own social group for working aged adults and supporting Esme’s Umbrella Nina wants to help bring people on their sight loss journey together as the power of community is so powerful. Peer support has been the rock that Nina needed and she wants to help provide the same for others.

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