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UK disability history month - our stories

Debbie was born in Essex and trained as a physiotherapist in West London graduating in 1991. Since 2021, Debbie is the Strategic Learning Disability Workforce Development Manager for Family Carers.

Back in her 20’s, Debbie combined her love of travel with work and spent a year in Australia. During this time, she was introduced to the social model of disability and the injustices faced by disabled people.

When she returned to England, Debbie built on the knowledge and skills that she learned in Australia and began working as a therapist specialised in wheelchair services.

This change in career took her to the West Cumbria Wheelchair Service and from there to Kendal where she met her husband, Ian. They had their daughter, Lucy in 2008 who was born with Down Syndrome and when she turned 5, Lucy was also given a diagnosis of autism.

After having Lucy, Debbie began working in a community learning disability team, where she spent 12 years using her knowledge of posture and seating to focus the physiotherapy service on meeting the needs of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, and people with complex physical disabilities. 

In addition to her work, Debbie set up her first early intervention group for children with Down Syndrome in early 2010 which ran for 18 months.

When Lucy started school in 2014, Debbie set up her second group “Up Up and Away” a fortnightly early intervention group for children with Down Syndrome which ran until all the children (in the group) started school.

With the help of Professor Sue Buckley, Debbie ran some outreach sessions for Teaching Assistants to help to support children further in their mainstream, schools.

Debbie began learning about Positive Behavioural Support when Lucy was about 7 and this journey transformed Lucy’s life and their family life. This is something that in Debbie's current role, discusses regularly.

In 2018, Debbie became involved in the Cumbria Early Intervention Pilot and was trained by the Tizard Centre to be a family carer co-facilitator for the Early Positive Approaches to Support Programme, and by the Challenging Behaviour Foundation to be a family carer co-facilitator for their Positive Behavioural Support workshops.

Debbie also works with Warwick University and recently was part of a team of family carers who co-produced a new programme called Positive Family Connections. She is also co-applicant for the NIHR Randomised control trail for E-PATS and chairs the Parent Carer Advisory Group for this research.

Debbie enjoys living in Kendal with Ian and Lucy, and in her free time she enjoys going for walks in the beautiful Cumbrian mountains and playing her saxophone in the local street band Blast Furness.

Vici Richardson is the Chief Executive of Disability North, a disabled persons organisation providing advice, support, and guidance across the North East.

Prior to her current role, Vici spent 12 years within the Direct Payment Support Team supporting and advising individuals and families in receipt of Direct Payments and Personal Health Budgets.

Before joining Disability North, Vici served as a campaigns and advocacy manager for a national charity, specialising in support for families living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy for which her child Zak, 21, lives with in addition to a learning disability.

Her passion and commitment to ensuring choice, control and inclusion stems from her experience as a Parent/Carer.

Vici is a passionate advocate for good transitions and ensuring that disabled young people have the skills, confidence, and support to move into adulthood.

Today, Zak is an integral part of his local community, surrounded by a dedicated team of Personal Assistants who facilitate his independence. Despite the challenges, there is a steadfast determination to ensure Zak's condition does not define him.

Beyond her official capacities, Vici actively participates in steering and advisory groups, holding directorship at the National Direct Payment Forum and vice-chairing the Northumberland Parent Carer Forum.

She has also addressed numerous audiences emphasising the important of co production, good preparation and listening to the voice of parent/carers and disabled young people.

Vici's personal and professional journey epitomizes a commitment to fostering inclusivity and enabling disabled young people to live their best lives with choice, control, and independence.

Richard is a disabled writer, performance poet and equality activist from Newcastle upon Tyne.

His writing often illustrates both literally and metaphorically, the differences between disabled and non-disabled worlds.

He also expresses through his work examples of inequality that he experiences as a blind person.

Professionally, Richard developed a career in HR. Having spent 3 years campaigning for disability equality as Development Manager at Difference North East.

Richard now works at VONNE, (Voluntary Organisations' Network North East), on health and wellbeing partnerships to promote community-based approaches and reduce inequalities.

Richard also runs slowly and plays ukulele although in his words not well and not at the same time.

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