Voting is now open for the 2023 Rodney Powell Awards

**Please note voting has now closed and closed on 31 August. Winners will be announced at our volunteer conference and website in October 2023.**

These awards recognise and celebrate the amazing contribution our Sight Loss Council (SLC) volunteers make to the lives of blind and partially sighted people and the work of Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT).

The awards will be presented by a special guest at the Sight Loss Council Conference on Saturday 7 October 2023 at Aston Conference Centre, Birmingham.

Read more on the shortlisted nominations below. Voting closes on 31 August 2023.

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Volunteer of the Year

Davinder Kullar – London Sight Loss Council

Davinder has made a significant contribution to London SLC, leading on projects and events which has subsequently raised the profile of London SLC.

Davinder was the key force in planning and delivering the London SLC VI Forum ‘Access Gyms: Making VI Fitness Better’. Davinder sourced the venue and built relationships with gym employees. He chaired the panel, sharing his personal experience of using the gym.

Davinder has co-delivered awareness sessions to Camden Councillors, leading to great feedback and a budding relationship with the council.

More recently, Davinder has led on a project to review inconsistencies in the TaxiCard service. He has spoken with Transport for All and London Councils to better understand issues with the scheme. This will hopefully influence improvements in the service going forward.

Davinder has also contributed to other aspects of TPT and the sector, such as supporting BAME Vision by participating in videos and pictures to support their campaigns.

Davinder has achieved all of this whilst working full time.

Davinder, London SLC member, with Adriana Duarte, Community Sports Officer at Better Gym during the sighted guide training.

Davinder, London SLC member, with Adriana Duarte, Community Sports Officer at Better Gym.

Lewis Oldroyd – West Yorkshire Sight Loss Council

Since beginning his volunteer journey with West Yorkshire SLC at the start of the year, Lewis has already made an impact through initiative-taking. Lewis is incredibly enthusiastic about improving opportunities for blind and partially sighted people in employment. Lewis was quick to contact all ten higher education institutions in West Yorkshire to set up meetings with their student support teams. Lewis promoted the work of the Education Team at TPT providing students with contact and referral information.

Through Lewis’s position on the board of the ASDA foundation, he has engaged with the Head of Internships at TPT starting the process of setting up an internship within ASDA for a blind or partially sighted person. He is now using other contacts to develop another internship opportunity.

Lewis has been instrumental in helping students feel supported into employment. He is actively creating employment opportunities in new and exciting sectors.

Headshot of Lewis Oldroyd, West Yorkshire SLC member. Lewis is standing against a white wall. He is wearing a blue suit jacket and black t-shirt. He is smiling at the camera.

Lewis, West Yorkshire SLC member

Julie Stephens – Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council

Julie is a core member of Gloucestershire SLC. She has worked across a broad range of areas, including working with the Museum of Gloucester. She has taken part in a video created for training about the Accessible Information Standard (AIS), Gloucester Cathedral and Crypt, simulation spec walks for local councils, and Stagecoach.

Julie has fantastic local knowledge, which was demonstrated wonderfully during our appearance on the BBC Gloucestershire County quiz. She has also used this local knowledge to proactively seek out new organisations and opportunities for us to work with.

Julie is supportive of other members and is a warm, welcoming member of the team. Julie has also developed on a personal level during her time in the SLC. She spoke in public at the SLC volunteer conference in 2022, later informing us that it was her first-ever public speaking experience.

 Julie Stephens, Gloucestershire SLC member, is knelt next to her guide dog, Heidi. She is on a woodland path with trees behind her.

Julie, Gloucestershire SLC member, with her guide dog Heidi.

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Team of the Year

Bedfordshire SLC

The collaboration between Bedfordshire SLC, Arup, Luton Rising and Ethos Farm at Luton DART has been exemplary.

Bedfordshire SLC visited Luton DART station to provide feedback on accessibility, the DART shuttle during a number of their end-to-end trials, and delivered vision awareness sessions to customer facing staff. The whole team at Luton DART have welcomed feedback from Bedfordshire SLC.

Examples of changes made include a spending area outside the station for assistance dogs, and rectifying an issue with the shuttle doors after a long cane was jammed in them. This work, which was completed in advance of the launch, has helped to reduce issues and provide staff with the confidence to support blind and partially sighted travellers.

This work will continue in the future with more awareness sessions to staff. Bedfordshire SLC will also continue to offer their support around web accessibility, signage, and promotion of their service.

Image shows Engagement Manager, Sam Leftwich, sitting on the DART shuttle with guide dog Lizzie, and two members of Bedfordshire Sight Loss Council.

Bedfordshire Engagement Manager, Samantha Leftwich, on the DART shuttle with SLC members

Birmingham Sight Loss Council

Birmingham SLC has gone above and beyond in its pursuit to help make the West Midlands a better place to live, work and visit – not only for those with sight loss, but all disabled people.

Volunteers have been available to test new ideas and provide constructive feedback. They present opportunities and challenges in a clear and constructive way and have pushed boundaries to create positive change.

The West Midlands has a long-term ambition to become an exemplar region for disabled people. Birmingham SLC has provided support, guidance, and created thought-provoking arguments to ensure that all blind and partially sighted people have clear representation and a voice.

Their input has enabled considerable investment on testing several wayfinding solutions. This has led to key considerations around the future development of tech-based solutions. They have had several thought-provoking discussions on housing, skills and employment, and health and wellbeing.

Table discussions with blind and partially sighted delegates, Sight Loss Council members and Jamie Reilly (Vulnerabilities Team, University Hospitals Birmingham). Delegates are sat around circular tables in a large room.

Table discussions with blind and partially sighted delegates during West Midlands SLC’s joint Listening Month event, held earlier this year.


West of England Sight Loss Council 

This incredible team of volunteers are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and have dedicated a huge amount of time to work with North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT) to ensure the hospital becomes more accessible for blind and partially sighted people.

They have been consistent in ensuring NBT focuses on meeting the Accessible Information Standard (AIS) and were fundamental in the set-up of NBTs AIS Steering Group. Two of the volunteers are members of the steering group along with other patient and staff representatives. The team have been invaluable in co-creating a Trust wide policy for AIS. One of the volunteers is a Patient Partner Volunteer at NBT and a part of wider patient experience groups to ensure experiences of those with sight loss are considered.

West of England SLC members have been fundamental in improving accessibility. They have represented blind and partially sighted people, lobbied for change, educated, and mentored people across the trust. They have taught people so much, been inspirational, and given people drive and determination.

This team work together so effectively to improve the experiences of other blind and partially sighted people whilst at hospital.

Bristol Sight Loss Council member Emma with North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT) staff member Rosie at a table with information on AIS in NBT Maternity.

West of England SLC member, Emma, with NBT staff member Rosie, at a table with information on AIS in NBT Maternity.

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Campaign of the Year

Make Health Accessible – Birmingham and Black Country Sight Loss Councils

Birmingham and Black Country Sight Loss Councils have demonstrated an outstanding approach to co-design and co-production as an enabler of Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

They have enhanced understanding and awareness through lived experience, insight, mentoring, and training to help the Adult Community Services Division raise awareness of the need to always personalise care for blind and partially sighted patients.

They have helped employees to co-produce materials which include a digital alert on care records for blind and partially sighted patients, a secret password concept which aims to alleviate the anxiety and uncertainty involved in answering a front door to a healthcare nurse or therapist; and tailoring communications to individual need, e.g. an accessible font size and paper, or a plain text email that works with a screen reader.

Louise Connop, Senior Engagement Manager for Central England, with Black Country SLC member, Meena Ratu. They are standing outside Moseley Hall Hospital, where they presented at the health care support worker conference.

Louise Connop, Senior Engagement Manager for Central England, with Black Country SLC member, Meena Ratu. They are at Moseley Hall Hospital, where they delivered a presentation to health care staff.


Make Transport Accessible – Bedfordshire, London, and East Sussex Sight Loss Councils

Working collaboratively, these SLC’s have been engaged with GOVIA Thameslink Railways (GTR) to facilitate the launch of a trial of the AIRA app. This took place at three key stations on the GTR network.

In collaboration, the teams coordinated the AIRA launch events, working with the Sight Loss Council communications team and GOVIA press officer. This resulted in the launch events generating great media coverage on TV, radio, newspapers/magazines and across social media. The ongoing trials of the AIRA app will enable blind and partially sighted people to try the service for free and give feedback directly to GOVIA. This will inform future decisions on adopting this service across their network.

This project shone the spotlight on three Sight Loss Councils, working across three regions in unison. It highlighted the amazing work and commitment of our volunteers.

Make Transport Accessible – West of England Sight Loss Council

Anela Wood and Phil Gingell have been working with the Wales & Western Network Rail Communications team over the last 12 months.

They have planned, developed, and launched an audio guide for Bristol Temple Meads station. The aim of this is to assist passengers to safely navigate the station – particularly whilst upgrades are being made to the station environment. The guide was a first nationally. It gained regional and national media coverage and was hailed as an epitome of good practice! This has sparked other transport projects’ interest and we have seen an increase in engagement levels.

This guide would not have been the success it was without the huge contributions made by Phil and Anela, bringing lived experience to the guide has helped to ensure its relevance and value to those who need it most.

Network Rail staff and Bristol Sight Loss Council members, joined by Thomas Pocklington Trust staff, stood in a line near a platform at Bristol Temple Meads railway station. They are facing the camera and smiling.

Network Rail staff and Bristol Sight Loss Council members, joined by Thomas Pocklington Trust staff at Bristol Temple Meads station.

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Outstanding Contribution

Steve Keith – Birmingham Sight Loss Council

Steve has played an instrumental part in the #MakeTransportAccessible campaign.

Steve led the West Midlands Railway Accessibility Matters film, joining the Senior Engagement Manager in being a keynote speaker at various transport events including Transport for West Midlands (TfWM).

This has resulted in Keith influencing strategy changes, and WMCA reviewing barriers to transport. Steve has been an active tester of the NaviLens™ app and attends the stakeholder engagement meetings with West Midlands Trains.

Steve Keith, Birmingham SLC member, standing in the coffee aisle with his guide dog.

Steve Keith and guide dog Vince during a trial of the GoodMaps app.

Sam Fox – Essex Sight Loss Council 

Sam has dedicated time to a number of SLC projects over the past two years. She led Essex SLC’s project on the introduction of the VI procedure and has continued to promote it this year.

She also lives and breathes everything AIS. If anything related to health comes up, she is there to talk about it.

Promoting the AIS and ensuring that everyone knows about it and what they need to do to meet the new standard. She is determined and her tenacity is unwavering.

Sam has remained focused and active despite the barriers presented to her. Sam is a force, a change driving force.

Sam Fox, a volunteer for Essex Sight Loss Council who is blind, pictured with a golden labrador

Sam Fox, Essex SLC member, pictured with a golden Labrador


Haren Thillainathan – South West London Sight Loss Council

Haren is a member of South West London SLC and was a founding member of London SLC.

Haren goes above and beyond in his volunteer role to improve the lives of blind and partially sighted people in London. He has led the SLC’s work on e-scooters over the last 2.5 years, from engaging with London Councils, Transport for London (TfL), the police and 3 e-scooter operators. He led on the planning and running of a VI Forum on e-scooter safety and was a key voice in lobbying for Acoustic Vehicle Alert’s (AVAs).

More recently, he played the starring role in two video campaigns with TIER to educate e-scooter and e-bike providers and working on a campaign with Lime. He participates in street safety issues with Wandsworth Council.

This was all achieved alongside working full-time in a demanding role.

Haren has contributed to other aspects of TPT, participating in a We Work video to share his experience of continuing in his employment after losing his sight.

London Sight Loss Council member Haren Thillainathan at UCL Pearl. He is sitting at a desk in the middle of a room, his guide dog is lying on the floor. A member from UCL Pearl is on the other side of the desk, mid conversation. There are two computer screens on the desk.

Haren, pictured at UCL Pearl, during testing of potential Acoustic Vehicle Alerts

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Publication date: 01 August 2023

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