Chris Albert BSc (Hons)
My background is in automotive and aerospace engineering. Although registered blind I try to push the boundaries, and challenge myself to new and varied experiences. I ski every year, the last 5 years in Austria. I power kite and kite buggy whenever the conditions are right, and still cycle when possible. I have recently begun to sail again with Blind Sailing and have joined the local sailing club in South Shields. This summer I hope to undertake kitesurf training. Last summer I took a windsurf lesson which I really enjoyed. If my adrenalin levels are low I can be found free-fall skydiving, unfortunately in tandem, from 10,000 feet. I like to expose blind and partially sighted people to as many thrills as possible to help them widen their expectations, and not be contained within a safe little bubble. I have a wide variety of experience with VI issues and the technology available to help overcome those barriers. I am experienced with Braille technologies, both in production of Braille and equipment related to working with Braille. I can carry out equipment research, and training delivery available upon request. As a registered blind person I use many of these technologies myself and can approach training with empathy.
Rob Dale MBE
I have been involved with VIEWS in several positions for many years, starting in 2003 when I returned to the North East after studying at Leeds University. I’ve held several Committee positions including Secretary & Socials Secretary, and have had loads of fun helping to provide a strong local and regional support for visually imparied people. I’ve particularly enjoyed the many activities we’ve organised as a committee including Confidence-building workshops, Outward-bound and City-break weekends, and nights out. Away from the group I have worked for HMRC for many years and have a range of interests including skiing, live music and enjoying good food & drink with interesting people. I have a daughter and love spending time with her and my family.
Lisa Charlton MBE
With a background in export marketing, I have extensive experience in marketing in the consumer, industrial and defence markets. When I lost my sight at the age of 29 through diabetic retinopathy, I continued with my work in export and travelled extensively. However, 2 years later I suffered a major stroke which left me partially paralysed down the right side. After taking a year off work it was time for a career change. I fell into fundraising by accident when I set up a charity for younger stroke survivors called Different Strokes. Different Strokes had no funds so I got to work fundraising for start up costs and went on to become a professional Fundraiser. I am now a Director of Funding for Tomorrow CIC. I have a wide interest in the voluntary sector both at a regional and a national level. I was a Trustee of RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) for 9 years where I chaired a number of committees and helped to set up the membership scheme. I am now the Treasurer of Different Strokes, Vice Chair of NSBP (Newcastle Society for Blind People), a Trustee of Healthwatch Newcastle, a Committee member of VIEWS and a Trustee of the MEA Trust. The majority of my voluntary involvement is with disability led organisations. In 2010 I was honoured with an MBE for Voluntary Services to Disabled People. I bring to the VIEWS Committee my expertise in fundraising and governance, my practical experience of the voluntary sector along with my strong passion for promoting the independence of visually impaired people.
I was registered as a blind person not long after my 20th following a rapid deterioration to my eyesight. This was due to a hereditary eye condition called Lebers Optic Neuropathy. At this time I was a relatively positive individual and in no time at all was undertaking training and qualifications to work as a computer programmer. However, a twist in fate in 1993 resulted in me taking a completely different path in terms of my voluntary and eventually professional career. I had completed the Great North Run for the first time as a VI person but that night I had an accident falling through a glass panel at a restaurant that resulted in me losing the use of one hand for a number of months. I therefore had to defer my degree in business computing at Sunderland University. Ultimately I feel this was a positive as I threw myself into voluntary work which has involved the setting up of three self -help groups, setting up and running the first north east football club for visually impaired people, voluntary work with two local VI societies and setting up the sub-group Positive VIEWS. I was a founder member of VIEWS and was the group’s first chairperson. Much of this work led to me completing the degree in Social Work and now having worked as a Social Worker since 2001. A highlight has been my work as Social Worker on the Newcastle Sensory Support Team (2004 – 2013) where I was involved with setting up a number of projects that have received national recognition including the Wylie Cards, Eyewish Training and the Access to Social and Leisure research project. I have had a keen interest in sports including running, football and more recently competing in VI tennis. I am a very proud father of a son (Callum) and daughter (Kelsey) and guardian to two nieces who I am also very proud of (Georgia and Paige). I have a strong belief in the social model of disability and challenging the barriers set before disabled people in society. I also have a strong belief in the empowerment of visually impaired people and the role peer support groups such as VIEWS performs in supporting this goal. Integral to this is my view of the importance of the psychology of disability and my motivation for organising the confidence training provided by VIEWS in recent times. This led to the setting up of Positive VIEWS which I still facilitate with the help of three other VIEWS members which aims to support VI people on the emotional and psychological levels.
I was born in South Shields in 1963. I have been sight impaired with optic atrophy and Nystagmus since birth. Although they didn’t know this until I began school in 1967. They realised quite quickly there was a problem so they dealt with it the only way compassionate local authorities did in the 60’s I was unceremoniously removed from my local Primary school and sent to a pan-disability school in Sunderland. A great Teacher (Mrs Raffles) helped me escape that school and I spent my teenage years at Exhall Grange boarding school for visually impaired children in Coventry, in the West Midlands. Although it was a very good school (academically speaking) I didn’t want to stay on post compulsory age so I left school at 15 with no qualifications. I went to work as an upholsterer for 13 years. I could not stand it any longer so took voluntary redundancy in August 1992. Within weeks I began a long path to educational fulfilment. South Tyneside College for two years achieving a BTEC National Diploma and 3 good GCE’s, which, in turn allowed me to undertake an honours degree at Sunderland University, achieving a 2:1. I then trained with the Guide Dogs School of vision and rehabilitation in Glasgow to qualify as a rehabilitation worker. I am now senior rehabilitation worker with Sight Service in Gateshead and have worked there since August 2002, since then I have gained a PGCE from Northumbria University. I developed a successful eccentric reading course that came from our integrated low vision service. Outside of work I was one of a handful of people to begin the VIEWS group in 2002. I was player and later Chairman of South Shields Visually Impaired Football Club. I play guitar and a little keyboards, I enjoy a wide variety of music and love to attend live concerts. I am also a keen runner and take part in the occasional half-marathon. Susan is my partner of nearly 9 years.
In 2004 I was registered severely sighted after an incident where I was hit in the face with a lump of concrete. After this happened I thought my life was over as prior to this happening I had a very full life. After a couple of years of feeling sorry for myself I contacted Newcastle sensory support team. This changed my life for the better. This was because I was introduced to a social worker called Lee Cawkwell who then introduced me to the VIEWS group among other things. Since then I have got my confidence back. Long before losing my sight, I went to a primary school called Thomas Walling, and then went on to a senior school called Rutherford. After I left school I joined and served in the British Army with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of fusiliers for 10 years serving two tours of Northern Ireland and also I served in the First Gulf war. After leaving the Army I worked fitting double glazing for several years until I worked for my Father in housing management. All of the time prior to sight loss I have played football at school boy level right through to alliance level. Now I have severe sight loss I feel through people like Lee Cawkwell Inspiring me, I have been able to achieve things that when I first lost my sight I couldn’t have imagined doing. I have recently passed my level 1 FA football coaching of which I am the first person to do so with the level of sight I have. I also play VI football for Henshaws in various tournaments. I also have now become an assistant coach for the Henshaws youth team, assisting in the development of their footballing skills alongside the Newcastle United foundation coaches. I am also a student in the martial art called Wing Chun Kung Fu and have introduced this to the VIEWS group. Life is so much better now.
I became VI three and a half years ago almost over night after a suspected virus caused inflammation and caused some damage to the nerve pathways from the eye to the brain. The exact cause of my visual impairment is a medical mystery which has frustrated some eye specialists. Since I have not got a defined eye condition then my eye consultant can not say what the prognosis is and there is a slight possibility that my vision might improve rather than deteriorate. I am now registered as partially sighted which has meant that I am now ‘official’ and has helped to end the sense of being stuck in limbo which I have felt for the last three years. When I became VI I was working as a Primary School Teacher and was just starting out in my career. I did work as a Primary Teacher whilst being VI but I could not secure a permanent regular job and after a period of being unemployed I had to rethink my career options. I worked for a year as an Administrator for a charity which involved undertaking various duties such as Event Organiser. I also was tasked with undertaking responsibility for setting up and running a Baby and Toddler Group. I then had another period of unemployment which led to me volunteering with the RNIB and getting involved with various projects including being interviewed live on Radio Newcastle. I also decided to get more involved with the VIEWS Group and became a Committee Member in July 2014. I am pleased to say that from September I will be working in education again but this time as a Support Assistant in an Early Years Unit in a primary school which I am very much looking forward to. The support I had from the friends I have made through coming to VIEWS and through Positive VIEWS sessions got me through the low period I had whilst I was unemployed and was feeling despondent about my future. I was also determined to use my experience of suddenly becoming VI and the difficulties I experienced in accessing support to improve services for others and so I have got involved with various VI organisations.
I have been involved with Views since January 2014 and have been a committee member since July 2014.I am an albino and have been visually impaired since birth. Despite this I have tried not to let my visual impairment stop me doing the things I wanted to, while being realistic about the limitations this can cause. I was educated in mainstream schooling, I experienced a lack of awareness of the impact of visual impairment and minimal support was provided, apart from large print exam papers. After leaving school I studied for A Levels at Ipswich Civic College. I came to the north east to study at Newcastle University.
After leaving Newcastle University I was employed as an unqualified hospital social worker for 2 years then I studied for the Certificate of Qualification in Social Work at the University of Surrey. During my subsequent social work career I undertook further postgraduate study at Northumbria University and Durham University. I was a social worker for Newcastle Council for many years, then moved into social work education, learning and development. I left full time work in 2013 due to redundancy and and I am now a practice educator for social work students. I am a also volunteer trainer for Eye Wish Access, raising awareness of visual impairment and the need to address and overcome barriers resulting from this.
I believe it is important to have a positive attitude and not let my visual impairment prevent me from pursuing a wide variety of interests, including walking, camping, travel, swimming, yoga, going to the theatre and cinema, politics and reading. I enjoy spending time with my family and socialising with friends.
I have considerable personal and professional experience of overcoming the barriers arising from my visual impairment. Since becoming involved with Views I have enjoyed getting to know other people with visual impairments, joining in a variety of social activities and gaining new experiences.
I joined the VIEWS committee earlier this year (2016) after several years of involvement with the group – I have particularly enjoyed taking part in social nights and activity weekends.
I work in Human Resources at Newcastle University, where I also gained my first degree in Economics and Business Management. I started my working life at Northubrian Water, which is where I worked whilst studying for my CIPD professional qualifications.
When not at work I like to read, occasionally to write (you can see some of my ramblings on my blog www.blindmansblogsey.blogspot.com ) and I’ve also completed some great fundraising treks in the Sahara in 2014 and completing the 3 Peaks in 2015.
I live in Newcastle with my wife, two children and two dogs.
Oh yes, and I have RP and am a registered blind guide dog user. Me that is, not the dog.
Views committee memberbrief biography .
I am totally blind, 42 years old, a guide dog owner and live in Newcastle. I have been employed in both the public and voluntary sector, and currently volunteer for RNIB and Action for Blind people, while I look for future employmenbt.
After graduating from the University of Central Lancashire in 1997 with a degree in German and management studies, I completed a post graduate diploma in broadcast journalism at the same university which I graduated from in 1999.
I then went on to work for the BBC as a freelance reporter and researcher at Radio Newcastle and Radio Cleveland for 2 years between 1999 and 2001.
Due to the unstable nature of freelance work, and the lack of availability of permenant or temporary posts with the BBC, I decided to change direction in my career, so moved to London and joined the Civil service.
I worked for the Department for Transport for 9 years between 2002 and 2011 in a wide range of policy jobs (from rail franchising to biofuels strategy), and built up expertise in these policy areas. I dealt with government ministers on a regular basis, providing them with information and writing correspondence for them.
I also worked for 5 years in a delivery focussed role working for the departments journey planning website (transport direct) which provided a journey planning solution for journeys by all modes of transport in England Scotland and Wales. My job here was primarily around data improvement and liaising with our data providers and software suppliers to identify and resolve faults.
Following redundancy from the civil service in summer 2011, I began volunteering at the RNIB working in their resource centre In London demonstrating access technology and household products to customers. This helped me to broaden my skills and understand more about the culture and ethos of voluntary sector organisations. This helped me to obtain two temporary paid posts with the RNIB, the first in 2011 which ran for 12 Months working for the Information Resource team where I assisted in the administration of the RNIB grants scheme, provided back office support to staff in the Advice Service, and ran a project to update and re-format data for the launch of RNIB’s sightline online database.
I also worked for 6 Months for the Talk and support service at RNIB from January to June 2013, providing administrative support to the team and their volunteers, responding to enquiries from professionals in the rehab sector regarding the service, and connecting service users to their talk and support groups.
I have continued to volunteer for RNIB since 2013, both in London, and following my move back to Newcastle in 2015. My volunteering has mainly been as a campaigner, however this has lead me to become involved in many other aspects of RNIB’s work as a volunteer. In May 2015, I became a member of the steering group which helped to design and implement RNIB Connect, RNIB’s new community for service users. I am also a member of RNIB‘s customer council, which seeks to represent the views of customers and service users in RNIB group’s work and use these to help shape and develop future strategy.
Finally, away from my professional life, I am a guide dog owner, and have a wide variety of interests and hobbies. I am a keen tandem cyclist, a member of my local rowing club in Newburn, enjoy listening to music and socialising, and am interested in classic cars and restoring vintage radios.