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Plenary Speakers

Visit the plenary slides pages to view presentations from these sessions.


Plenary 1 – Education and Training

Moderators: Dr Dana Roth and Hashem Taqi


Plenary 2 – World of Work

Moderators: Dr Friedrich Mehrhoff and Dr Stephen Duckworth


Plenary 3 – Ageing and Rehabilitation

Moderators: Prof Joseph Kwok and Chris Ball


Plenary 4 – Independent Living and Social Care

Moderators: Dr Mike Nussbaum and Dr Stephen Duckworth


Plenary 5 – Disaster Management

Moderators: Dr Regina Ernst and Dr Stephen Duckworth


Plenary 6 – Culture, Leisure, Sport, Accessibility and Inclusion

Moderators: Joseph Kwan and Craig Crowley


Plenary 7 – Question Time

Moderator: Dr Sally Witcher

Question Time is a topical BBC television programme in the United Kingdom. The show typically features politicians from at least the three major political parties as well as other public figures who answer pre-selected questions put to them by a carefully selected audience. For the RI World Congress speakers will be selected from those listed below and the audience will be the 1,000 delegates attending the event.


Speaker biographies

Plenary 1 – Education and Training


Haqeeq BostanPersonal Experience of Education

Haqeeq is a disabled person who passionately believes in the power of education to transform the lives of disabled people and is committed to building an inclusive and equal society. Professionally,  he is the Communications Director at a leading FTSE 100 company. Before this he had a senior position at the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Working with the late Lord Ashley of Stoke and the All Party Disability Group,  Haqeeq took a leading role in helping drive through the 2nd wave of UK disability equality legislation. This helped to widen the scope of those protected by disability law and importantly placed a positive duty on  the public sector to promote disability equality. Haqeeq was born and raised in rural Pakistan and is acutely aware of the inequality faced by disabled people across the developing world.   He’s used his experiences to help students to fully participate in any mainstream education of their choice.


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David Ruebain, Chief Executive, Equality Challenge Unit

In 2010, David became Chief Executive of the Equality Challenge Unit, a policy and research agency funded to advance equality & diversity in universities in the UK and colleges in Scotland and England. Prior to that, he was a practicing solicitor for 21 years; latterly as Director of Legal Policy at the Equality and Human Rights Commission and before that as a Partner at and founder of the department of Education, Equality and Disability Law at Levenes Solicitors. David is a member of the Advisory Group of the Office for Fair Access, an equality adviser to the English FA Premier League, a Trustee of Action on Disability and Development, a member of the Rights & Justice Committee of the Joseph Rowntree Trust and sits on the Editorial Board of Disability and Society Journal.


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Tressa Burke, Chief Executive, Glasgow Disability Alliance

Tressa has held senior leadership roles in third and public sector organisations developing people led programmes which build on disabled people’s strengths, increase confidence, connections and capacity to participate and contribute to their own lives, communities and wider society. She has particular expertise and insights in the areas of lifelong learning and capacity building and its connections with peer support, participation and independent living. A disabled person herself, Tressa has increased participative and representative democracy for disabled people: GDA currently has 3500+ disabled members. Tressa acts as advisor to Glasgow City Council and Scottish Government partnerships e.g. she Co-Chairs Glasgow Independent Living Strategy Board and sits on reference groups for Health and Social Care Integration & Community Empowerment Act. She is currently Convenor of Inclusion Scotland. Tressa holds an MA in Music & Philosophy and a post graduate Diploma and Masters in Social Work with specialism in Community Development.


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Dr Scott Thompson, Faculty of Education, University of Regina, Canada

Dr Thompson received his Ph.D. in Education from the University of British Columbia in 2002. He is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina, teaching courses in Inclusive/special Education and in Educational Psychology. He has served as a consultant for students with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities. He supports adults with developmental disabilities, including persons with head injuries. He is currently partnering with other researchers at Queen's University and the University of Regina on a five-year project titled "Disability policy alliance: Learning collaborative and equity coalition". In addition, he is completing a three-year study as principal investigator titled: "Disabling inclusive education: enabling theory and practice from the ground up".


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Dr Dana Roth, Director of the Research & Evaluation Center, Beit Issie Shapiro

Dr Dana Roth is the Director of the Research & Evaluation Center at Beit Issie Shapiro in Israel. Beit Issie Shapiro is Israel’s leading NGO furthering the rights, opportunities and services for people with disabilities, impacting on over 25,000 people every year. The research is conducted in collaboration with academic institutions in Israel and internationally. Dr. Roth has been involved in research and evaluation of programs, therapy interventions, and measurement development, in various areas, including quality of life, families, community and policy. Her work has been published in scientific journals and book chapters; she has chaired international conferences and is a referee reader and guest editor for academic journals. Her particular interest is in promoting participatory action research paradigms in the disability field.


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Hashem Taqi

Hashem Taqi was the Vice Chairperson of the Regional Committee of the Inclusion International for the Arab Region. He has been associated with the Rehabilitation International (R.I.) since 1976 as a member in the Education Commission, Commission on Organization and Administration and International Commission on Technology and Accessibility Tutor and a Representative for Makaton Communication Language Programme in Kuwait since 1988. Hashem was appointed as a Member in the Nominating Committee of the R.I. in 1996 and has served as a Vice Chairperson of the R.I. Education Commission for the Arab Region since 1996 – 2012. He meets in parliament to review the legislation for the necessary changes to be made according to the United Nations Conventional Rights for the Persons with Disabilities.


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Speaker biographies

Plenary 2 – World of Work


Mike Thompson, Director Early Careers, Barclays

Mike has been working in Barclays for over 25 years in a variety of frontline and support leadership roles across the business. His past six years have been in HR, where he has built up extensive experience of implementing management and leadership development programmes, employee engagement programmes and managing the development of Barclays' Learning and Development Curriculum.

Mike's achievements include the roll out of the highly successful Leadership Excellence Programme across the UK, Africa and Europe and the implementation of the Barclays Apprenticeship Programme. He currently manages a number of award winning Early Careers programmes including the Barclays Apprenticeship programme and Barclays Degree Apprenticeship in Leadership and Management. He is also a board member of the Government's Apprenticeship Delivery Board where he has an ambassadorial role promoting apprenticeships across the Financial Services Sector.

The Barclays Apprenticeship programme is recognised as one of the UK's leading programmes, having won the BITC Inspiring Young Talent Award in 2015, as well as the prestigious Target Jobs Best Apprenticeship Programme of the Year 2015.

Mike is passionate about developing young talent and tackling diversity and equality issues as well as providing meaningful solutions that address youth unemployment.


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Janet Tinson MSc, Accident Compensation Corporation, New Zealand

Janet Tinson has worked for the New Zealand's Accident Compensation (ACC) scheme since soon after its inception. Notwithstanding living with a significant respiratory impairment Janet has been recognised for her outstanding achievements in supporting disabled people’s return to work. The ACC provides comprehensive, no-fault personal injury cover for all New Zealand residents and visitors to New Zealand. Through her career spanning 28 years, Janet has worked in front-line service delivery, initially working with clients post serious-injury through to policy, advisory and management roles. She holds a degree in psychology and education from Auckland University and a Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation studies from Southampton University in the UK.


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Dr Paul Litchfield OBE OStJ FRCP FFOM, BT (British Telecom) Group Chief Medical Officer and Director Wellbeing, Inclusion, Safety & Health.

Paul Litchfield has been Chief Medical Officer for BT Group plc since 2001 and has been active in the field of workplace health and disability for more than 30 years. He has been involved in UK national and European initiatives to promote good physical & mental health, to improve rehabilitation back into work and to reduce the stigma of mental ill health. In April 2015 he was additionally appointed as Chair of the UK’s What Works Centre for Wellbeing, which is dedicated to understanding what can be done to improve wellbeing across society. He is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Mental Health. In 2013 and 2014 he was appointed to undertake statutory Independent Reviews of elements of the UK welfare system and to advise the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions.


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Dr Joachim Breuer, Director General, German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV), Chairman of the Technical Commission on Accident Insurance (ISSA)

Dr Joachim Breuer is a doctor of law. Since 2002 he is Director General (CEO) of German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV), the umbrella organization of all German statutory accident insurance and prevention institutions in the private and public sector seated in Berlin. They insure more than 70 million employees and children by paying and managing work safety, medical as well as social and occupational rehabilitation and compensation of victims of occupational accidents and diseases. Dr Breuer is often consulted as an expert in social security law by governments in Europe and abroad. In 2008 he was elected as Vice-President of Rehabilitation International (RI), responsible for Europe. And since years he chairs the Technical Commission on Accident Insurance in the ISSA (Geneva).


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Dr Friedrich Mehrhoff, Head of Rehabilitation Strategies, German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV)

Friedrich Mehrhoff is a doctor in law and the head of rehabilitation strategies in the German Federation of Insurers against the risks of Work and School Accidents and Occupational Diseases (DGUV) in Berlin. Insurers, service providers, professionals and state authorities ask for his recommendations, nationally and internationally, basically on return-to-work strategies. He focuses on Disability Management as an economic and social investment, cares for the European Office of Rehabilitation International in Brussels and co-chairs the RI Commission of Work and Employment in this World Organization seated in New York.


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Dr Stephen Duckworth, Chair of the 2016 RI World Congress Programme Board, Shaw Trust

Stephen Duckworth is the Chair of the 2016 RI Global Congress Programme Board and works both in the private and not-for-profit sector. He is currently responsible for running a business that is reassessing over 1 million disabled people to determine their benefit entitlements and supporting disabled people into work through his involvement with the Shaw Trust. Previously he has run his own business, advised ministers on the introduction of antidiscrimination legislation and was a board member of the Olympic Delivery Authority for London 2012. Stephen qualified as a doctor but then having broken his neck completed a PhD titled: Disability and Employment: the imperative for a new approach.


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Speaker biographies

Plenary 3 – Ageing and Rehabilitation


Lord Filkin, Centre for Ageing Better

Geoffrey Filkin’s career has spanned public service improvement as a Chief Executive, policy maker, Government Minister and member of the House Lords. He has founded several charities and think-tanks and is the founder Chair of the Centre for Ageing Better. He was a senior manager in housing associations and local government and then led the Association of District Councils and created Best Value, the policy for sourcing in local government. In 1997 he was appointed CBE. In 2000 he led the Prime Minister’s Review of local government and subsequently was a government Minister for four years. In the Lords he chaired the Committee on Statutory Instruments from 2005-10 and chaired the Lords Select Committee on Public Services and Demographic Change and its report, Ready for Ageing? 2013.


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Dame Anne Begg (former Member of Parliament)

Dame Anne Begg was born in Angus, Scotland in 1955 with the genetic condition Gaucher’s disease and, as a result, has permanently used a wheelchair since 1984. After graduating from Aberdeen University, she was a secondary school English teacher for 19 years and Disabled Scot of the Year in 1988. In May1997 she was elected as a Labour Member of the UK Parliament representing Aberdeen South. During the 18 years she was an MP, her political interests included Scottish devolution, equalities, genetics, welfare reform and pensions. Between 2010 and 15 she was Chair of the influential Work and Pensions Select Committee. In the 2011 New Year’s Honours List she was awarded a DBE for her services to disabled people and equalities.


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Professor Graham Stokes

Graham has over 25 years of experience in dementia care and is an internationally recognised authority on dementia care practice and policy. He is Director of Dementia Care at Bupa, a post he took up in 2009, where he oversees Bupa’s dementia policy and practice around the world influencing services in over 190 countries. Prior to this, he was a senior consultant clinical psychologist at South Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust in the UK where he was Head of Psychology Services for Older Adults and Adults with Neurodegenerative Diseases. He has written a number of books and papers including the series ‘Common Problems with the Elderly Confused’; ‘Challenging Behaviour in Dementia’; and most recently ‘And Still The Music Plays: Stories of People with Dementia.’


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Prof Joseph Kwok

Prof Joseph Kwok is a Registered Social Worker, Ph.D., Bronze Bauhinia Star, Justice of Peace, was a former Associate Professor of City University of Hong Kong. He has an extensive involvement in disability both at the global, regional and local levels. He has been a consultant to UNESCAP. He is the Global Chair of the Social Commission of Rehabilitation International (2008-2012), Vice Chair of Asian Pacific Disability Forum, and has participated in international and regional activities related to the drafting, adoption and monitoring of the UN Asia and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons 1993-2012 and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He was a recipient of the Kazuo Itoga Memorial Award by the Shiga Prefecture, Government of Japan in 2006.


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Anja Höthker, Team Leader robotics, Toyota Motor Europe, Brussels

Anja Höthker received her degree in computer science from the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. In 2005 she joined Toyota Motor Europe where she has since coordinated R&D projects aimed at contributing technology for Toyota’s Partner Robots. Since 2011 she is the team leader of Toyota’s European robotics branch located in Brussels. Toyota has been working to develop human-assisting partner robots to help enrich people’s lives. Toyota will support people in four domains—nursing and healthcare support, personal mobility support, manufacturing support, and daily life support and contribute to a more sustainable society and universal lifestyles. Toyota provides the freedom of mobility to all people, and understands from its tie-ups with hospitals and other medical facilities that there is a need for robots in the field of healthcare. Toyota aims to support independent living for elderly and disabled people.


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Chris Ball, Specialist Advisor on the Ageing Workforce, Shaw Trust

Chris was Chief Executive of TAEN – The Age and Employment Network for eight years prior to TAEN becoming Shaw Trust’s centre of expertise on age and work. His experience includes advising on workplace health issues and diversity as well leading campaigns for a better deal for people in mid and later life seeking to remain in or re-enter the workforce. In earlier job roles he led campaigns to secure employment rights, principally for members of the white collar trade union, Manufacturing Science and Finance. (He was one of the first people, for example, to raise the issue of workplace bullying as a hazard to mental health, and supported campaigns in Parliament and elsewhere to give employees better redress against bullying behaviour at work.) As Chief Executive of TAEN / Specialist Adviser for Shaw Trust Chris has participated in international conferences on “Age Management” and related issues affecting the ageing workforce. Earlier this year he was a keynote speaker at a conference on “Older Women in an Ageing Society”, in Fukuoka, Japan. Chris has written widely on work for the London Evening Standard and other papers as well as being a regular commentator / blogger on age and work issues. In his personal life, he has three children, including Hannah (aged 31) who has cerebral palsy and resides independently, in Blackheath London, where she lives an active and creative life.


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Speaker biographies

Plenary 4 – Independent Living and Social Care


Dr Tom Shakespeare

My research interests are disability studies, medical sociology and ethical aspects of genetics. I have had a long involvement with the disabled people’s movement. Current projects are on independent living; and success factors for disabled people in Africa. I am also interested in ‘rights based rehabilitation’, bringing a disability rights lens to bear on health-related rehabilitation. It is 20 years since my book on disability and sex, so I am talking again about intimacy and relationships. During five years at WHO, I produced reports such as the World Report on Disability (WHO 2011) and International Perspectives on Spinal Cord Injury (WHO 2013), and the UN statement on forced, coerced and otherwise involuntary sterilization (WHO 2014). This grew my interest in disability and international development.


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Mike Adams, Chief Executive, Essex Coalition of Disabled People

At a national level, Mike was Chair of the Access to Work Expert Advisory Panel which reported to government in January 2013. Mike is Chief Executive an Essex based user-led organisation, which exists to support disabled people to have a voice to influence local and national policy and practice. We also provide a range of direct payment services to over 4,500 users. Mike has previously been one of the senior management team at the Disability Rights Commission, Director of the National Disability Team for higher education and co-director of a disability research centre at Coventry University. Mike was awarded the OBE in 2012 for services to disabled people.


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Liz Sayce, Chief Executive, Disability Rights UK

Liz is one of the UK's foremost authorities on disability issues. She spent eight years as policy director of Mind and, in the US, studied the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Sayce has published many books on mental health, disability and social inclusion, Disability Rights UK has launched DRILL (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning) with Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales and Disability Action Northern Ireland. DRILL is a 5 year programme which will deliver the world’s first major research programme led by disabled people. It aims to build an evidence base about approaches to independent living.


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Mark Williams MBE, Artistic Director/CEO, Heart n Soul

Mark Williams is the Artistic Director, CEO and Co-founder of Heart n Soul. Tilley Milburn and her collaborator Del the Pig, is a performance artist who has been working with Heart n Soul for the last five years. Heart n Soul is an internationally recognised award winning arts organisation that believes in the talents and power of people with learning disabilities. We provide opportunities for people to discover; develop and share this power and talent as widely as possible, making a more fun, creative, open and equal world for everyone. Heart n Soul offers opportunities for people to take part, train in a new skill or develop their artistic talents. Now in our 30th year, Heart n Soul continue to innovate, develop and share ground breaking practice, projects and events such as the Beautiful Octopus Club, the Chat Up and SoundLab.


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Tilley Milburn, Singer/Songwriter, Heart n Soul

Tilley Milburn is a singer-songwriter and performance artist who uses pigs, politics and personal experiences as inspiration for her work. Tilley’s distinctive voice and vision is informed by her diagnosis on the autistic spectrum and frequent spells in care homes and psychiatric wards throughout her late teenage years. Tilley uses performing as a way of breaking free from the structures and constraints that sometime might cause anxiety in her everyday life, and open up her world. The improvisatory nature of her work allows Tilley the freedom to teeter simultaneously on the verge of hilarity and poignancy, always engaging her audience on a personal level. Heart n Soul has worked with Tilley to nurture her work and stagecraft for almost five years.

‘I’m someone who tends to benefit from clear structure in my daily life, but when I’m performing I seem to favour a much freer, less scripted approach. I enjoy expressing myself creatively in a number of ways, from Comic Strips to singing in choirs but I get the most satisfaction from a more intimate situation where I can properly engage with an audience....anxieties and insecurities melt away once a performance commences and I feel EUPHORIC! Whatever I do, I hope that it can move people in some way and challenge perceptions, most of all IT SHOULD BE FUN!’ Tilley Milburn, 2015

Central to Tilley’s performance work is her best friend Del, a beautiful pink stuffed pig that she met at Clinton Cards in Kent eleven years ago. In Tilley’s words, Del ‘adds an extra dimension to my performances, allowing me to be a braver and more creative artist!’ and has inspired Piggie Pleasures, Tilley’s growing body of work that intersects performance, cabaret and comic book art. The latter has enabled Tilley to relate her personal story through material created with graphic artist Ben Connors, with the results published in six editions of Strike! Magazine, featured in the Wellcome Trust’s book, Where Does it Hurt?, and accepted as part of the Daily Life Lightbox with Outside In and the Bethlem Gallery’s exhibition in Stratford in Spring 2016.

The successful collaboration with Ben greatly increased Tilley’s confidence, which in turn has led her embrace a wider set of creative opportunities. Tilley and Del have now performed in a variety of settings including large scale public events at The Southbank Centre and The British Museum as well as more intimate events such as at The High Commission in Malta and Meet Me at The Albany in Deptford, an innovative participatory programme for the over 60s. Tilley is also developing a portfolio of short films and video blogs including Supermarket Stories.

This year Tilley has co-hosted two Heart n Soul’s Chat Up events, which featured artist Bobby Baker being interviewed by journalist Philippa Perry, and Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti interviewed by poet Dean Atta. Bobby Baker has also been a creative mentor to Tilley over the past two years.

‘Tilley and Catherine are an excellent team. Their relationship has flourished - impressive. It has been encouraging to see how Tilley is emerging from the years of being routinely and systematically underestimated, discriminated against, or taken advantage of, so that her confidence can start to really develop’. Bobby Baker, 2015.


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Lizzie Emeh, Singer/Song-writer, Heart n Soul

Lizzie Emeh is one of Heart n Soul’s key artists. She uses music to touch people's lives. Lizzie launched her debut album Loud and Proud in October 2009 and made history as the first solo artist with a learning disability to release an album to the general public of her own songs. She describes her sound as, “Eclectic, wide-ranging and with lots of soul.” Lizzie co-writes all her songs. She doesn’t write lyrics down, she writes them in her head and then works with the musicians to come up with the mood, beats, chords and melodies she wants.


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Dr Mike Nussbaum

Dr Mike Nussbaum has been in the thick of social change and community development for nearly 50 years. His first career as a research chemist was cut short by failing eyesight, but Mike forged a second career in local government and public policy. Mike worked with communities in the most challenging local authorities in the UK, initiating pioneering work in social inclusion and in urban regeneration and design. Since retirement Mike has taken on various roles in the national voluntary sector but particularly in promoting and developing the role of volunteering. In 2005 Mike received a national ‘Year of the Volunteer’ Award and in 2008 The Open University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of over 40 years of public service.


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Speaker biographies

Plenary 5 – Disaster Management


Prof David Alexander PhD FRGS FGS FRSA FICPEM, Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, University College London

Prof Alexander has worked extensively with the Council of Europe on the design of measures to assist or empower people with disabilities with respect to the threat or occurrence of major incidents and disasters. He is currently designing a large research project on disabilities and disasters. Sadly, the level of preparedness in Europe (and elsewhere in the world) is low and when emergencies occur or disaster strikes this leads to unwarranted discrimination against people with disabilities, as well as lack of inclusiveness. He has recently co-authored a book entitled Recovery from Disaster and is completing another on emergency planning.


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Adrian Went, Managing Director, Griffon Hoverwork

Adrian is the Managing Director of Griffon Hoverwork which has more than 180 craft in operation with 64 military, commercial and rescue service customers in 41 countries across the globe. This includes a single order for 12 large hovercraft for the Indian Coast Guard and the largest craft built in UK since 1980 for the Korean Coastguard and fleets for the Canadian Coastguard, Pakistan Navy, Peruvian Marines and Colombian Marines (latter two for anti-drug-trafficking operations). The company won the Queens Award for Export and the National Apprenticeship Employer of the Year Award in 2014.


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Mike Adamson, Chief Executive, British Red Cross

Mike Adamson has been Chief Executive since 2014 but his career at the British Red Cross spans 15 years. From October 2010 he was managing director of operations, responsible for leading UK and international programmes.. Between 1992 and 2003 he held a range of positions within the organisation including head of international programme development, director of the London and south east region and director of strategy, planning and information systems. In his years away from the organisation, Mike worked for the National Health Service as director of commissioning and primary care at a primary care trust. He spent five years as managing director for services at the Royal National Institute for Deaf People.


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Professor Charlotte Clarke – University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Charlotte Clarke joined the University of Edinburgh as Professor and Head of the School of Health in Social Science in 2011. Charlotte qualified as a nurse in 1986 from what was then called Glasgow College of Technology and worked clinically for a number of years before moving into roles that were more focussed on education and research. A part-time PhD studentship funded by the then Regional Health Authority focussed on the experiences of carers of people with dementia. Charlotte now also works at the University of Edinburgh as International Dean for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; and as Co-Director of the Centre for Dementia Prevention. Recent research has involved exploring resilience both at the individual and community levels, and the relationship between the two.


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Dr Regina Ernst, Federal Rehabilitation Council (BAR)

Dr Regina Ernst works at the Federal Rehabilitation Council (BAR) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. BAR is an umbrella organisation of all German social insurances at the federal level concerning rehabilitation. She is responsible as a coordinator for several projects and priorities: Elderly people and care, UN CRPD, barrier-free design environment and international cooperation. At the moment she is in charge of the RI National Secretary for Germany.


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Speaker biographies

Plenary 6 – Culture, Leisure, Sport, Accessibility and Inclusion



Daniel Biddle - NRAC Consultant, ACIOB, FRSA, Nationwide Access Consultants

At the age of 26 Daniel sustained life altering injuries after being caught up in the terrible events of the 7th July 2005 terrorist attacks on the London transport system. Being cited as the most seriously injured survivor of the attacks and spending a year in hospital, life looked a pretty daunting prospect. With so much free time in hospital Daniel finished his construction qualifications and then retrained to become a consultant member of the National Register of Access Consultants. Upon being discharged from hospital Daniel's naivety of the disabled world hit him with some force, as he couldn't find a dropped kerb to get off the pavement. In that moment he decided to turn a negative, which was his injuries, into a positive and that he would work on creating greater social inclusion and greater levels of accessibility within our built environments and as such Nationwide Access Consultants Ltd was born. Since the day of the 7th July 2005 there have been many challenges and many frustrations but through it all there has been a desire to drive change and this remains our ultimate goal to create environments and opportunities without boundaries.


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Colin Allen, President – World Federation of Deaf People

As a deaf person who uses Auslan, Colin Allen has advanced the human rights of deaf people and more broadly people with disability for over 35 years.

Commencing in 1975 at a local level, he was involved in Deaf Community groups including Theatre of the Deaf, NSW Association of the Deaf, the Deaf Society and Australian Gay and Lesbian Association of the Deaf.

Colin served as a Board member of Australian Association of the Deaf (now Deaf Australia) from 1987- 1999, serving as President for nine years. During Colin’s leadership, the organisation achieved:

  • Inaugural Government funding (1992)
  • Establishment of the National Relay Service (with Deaf Australia spearheading the campaign) (1995)
  • Hosting XIII World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), Brisbane (1999)

Between September 2000 and May 2007, Colin worked for the Finnish Association of the Deaf on capacity building projects for the Deaf Community in Albania, Cambodia and Kosovo as well as conducting a situational analysis project of the Deaf Community in Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Turkey. From 2007 to 2009, he was International Project Co-ordinator for the Global Education Pre-Planning Project on the Human Rights of Deaf People conducting regional survey work about deaf people in Eastern Europe, Middle Asia, Asia and the Pacific, South America, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Eastern and Southern Africa, Western and Central Africa and Arabian States.

Upon his return to Sydney, Australia in late 2009, Colin worked as Director of Services and Community Engagement with the Deaf Society until June 2013, a position responsible for the delivery of services across Community Services, Adult Education, Employment, Sign Language Interpreting and Advocacy & Community Development. He has been Access and Community Engagement Consultant with the Deaf Society since July 2013 in which he advocates to Government departments for information to be provided in Auslan.

In 2003, Colin was elected as a board member of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and in July 2011 became President, the first Australian to occupy this role. In July 2015, he was re-elected for a second term until 2019.

In the human rights arena, Colin has represented WFD in international forums, most particularly the United Nations meetings relevant to the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

In 2011, Colin became a board member of the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and in 2013, he became First Vice Chair. His commitment to human rights was exemplified through representing IDA and WFD at the CRPD Committee Session Meetings in Geneva, at Annual State Conferences of CRPD, United Nations High Level Meeting on Disability and Development in New York, and 22nd APEC High Level Forum on Disability in Beijing, China.

The WFD and IDA roles are honorary positions with all work undertaken on a voluntary basis.


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Margaret Hickish, Director of Inclusive Design, Network Rail

Margaret Hickish is recognised for her practical and pragmatic approach to inclusive design while supporting the project design ethos. She has advised on nationally and internationally significant projects and has more than 22 years of experience in the field. Margaret has developed the inclusive design strategy at Network Rail she also manages inclusive design stakeholder consultation with disabled people. Bringing unrivalled experience from London 2012, Margaret advised the Olympic Delivery Authority, LOCOG and the Greater London Authority on all aspects of accessibility and inclusive design. She developed the ODA’s award winning Inclusive Design Strategy and Standards. Margaret is one of the top 100 most influential disabled people in the UK.


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Lia Martirosyan, Singer, Writer and Co-Founder – ABILITY Corps

Lia Martirosyan is a classical singer, actress and creative writer. A lyric soprano, she sings in the US, and has performed in China, Italy, Jordan and Armenia. Her writing covers individuals worldwide working towards integrating those with disabilities into hesitant societies, such the Middle East, Asia and South America; her work can be seen in ABILITY Magazine. She is also Co-Founder of ABILITY Corps, whose aim is to create a world of inclusion and awareness for people with disabilities — through music, videography, art and volunteer opportunities. Lia's ventures include promoting education of undiagnosed conditions and genome sequencing.


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Joseph Kwan

Joseph Kwan is an Architect and Access Consultant with 40 years of experience having practiced in Australia, the United Kingdom, France and now 30 years in Hong Kong. He specializes in universal design and accessibility to the built environment, transportation and inclusive tourism. He was a Consultant to the United Nations - Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific on Non-Handicapping Environments for People with Disabilities, and is also their Expert/Resource Person on Barrier-Free Tourism in Asia and the Pacific. Joseph Kwan currently serves as Advisor to the Asia Pacific Network on Accessible Tourism and to the Asian Development Bank on universal Access to ADB Transport Projects in Asia.


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Craig Crowley - Chief Executive, Action Deafness

Craig Crowley is the Chief Executive of Action Deafness, a business solutions provider organisation which focuses on two businesses in 1) AD Communications (Specialist BSL Interpreting & Red Dot Connect Video Online Interpreting), 2) AD Community (1:1 community support & personal assistance). Although based in the East Midlands (UK), Craig has travelled extensively throughout UK, Europe and the world due to his links as former President of International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (Deaflympics) 2009-2013 and now as Associate Director of Efficere Sports International. Craig is the Honorary President of UK Deaf Sport. In 2015 Craig was appointed by UK Council on Deafness to become chair of the Common Purpose Task Force. This group works with Organisations concerned with deafness and hearing loss to influence government policy.


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Chet Cooper - Ability Awareness

For more than 25 years, Chet Cooper has been a leading advocate for employment, awareness building, and housing for people with disabilities (PWD's). Seeking to increase employment, in 1995 he launched the first career website for PWD’s, JobAccess.org<http://JobAccess.org/>, now called abilityJOBS.com<http://JobAccess.org/abilityJOBS.com>, helping hundreds of thousands of job seekers connect with employers. Chet formed ABILITY Awareness, dedicated to enhance volunteer opportunities for PWD’s; award-winning program, ABILITY House, accesses volunteers with disabilities to build universally designed homes. Chet is also the Publisher of ABILITY Magazine. AM's on-line version is consistently ranked among top 20 magazines in the world. AM profiles celebrities and features articles on the most recent innovations in health, disability and human potential. His current work involves assistive technologies and television production.


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Graeme K Whippy MBE - Disability Specialist, Channel 4 Television Corporation

Graeme is a business disability consultant who helps organisations remove barriers to employing and serving disabled people. He is an expert in IT Accessibility and was recognised for his work in this field with the award for Outstanding Contribution by an Individual at the Financial Sector Technology awards in 2009. His other key achievements include creating an award-winning approach to making workplace adjustments for disabled employees and leading the creation of the Dementia Friendly Financial Services charter whilst representing the banking sector on the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge.  He joined Channel 4 Television in 2016 to help them become an exemplar employer for disabled people, building upon their already excellent reputation for representing disability on-screen and creating change in the creative media sector. Graeme was awarded an MBE in 2016 for his services to people with dementia and disabilities.


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Speaker biographies

Plenary 7 – Question Time


Inclusion Scotland – Dr Sally Witcher OBE, Chief Executive

Dr Sally Witcher OBE is the Chief Executive of Inclusion Scotland, a national membership organisation led by disabled people aiming to promote disabled people’s full inclusion into all aspects of society; ensuring that decisions affecting our lives are informed by our own voices and reflect our own choices. Her understanding of disability equality is derived from experience of associated senior leadership roles in the public and third sectors, as a consultant, researcher, and former advisor to UK Government Ministers and, most importantly, as a disabled person herself.


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World Health Organisation – Prof Maria Alarcos Cieza, Coordinator, Disability and Rehabilitation

Prof Alarcos Cieza oversees WHO’s work on disability and rehabilitation related to policies, medical care and rehabilitation, community-based rehabilitation, assistive devices and technologies, data collection approaches and capacity building, all of which contribute to the implementation of the Disability Action Plan 2014-2021.


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United Nations – Akiko Ito, Chief, Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (SCPRD)/DESA is a focal point on disability of the United Nations system; SCRPD/DESA promotes the disability rights agenda in the broad international developmental framework.


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International Disability Alliance – Colin Allen, Chair

The International Disability Alliance was established in 1999 as a network of global and, since 2007, regional organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) and their families. The aim of the Alliance is to promote the effective and full implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) worldwide, as well as compliance with the CRPD within the UN system, through the active and coordinated involvement of representative organisations of persons with disabilities at the national, regional and international levels.


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International Social Security Association – Mr. Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, Secretary General

Mr Konkolewsky was elected Secretary General of the International Social Security Association (ISSA) in 2005. In this function, Mr Konkolewsky has developed the innovative concept of a dynamic social security focussing on modern, proactive and preventive aspects. Under his leadership, the ISSA has recently launched a new Centre for Excellence in social security administration, which as an important objective aims to strengthen the role of social security in the prevention of occupational risks, in workplace health promotion and in return to work concepts.

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World Bank – Charlotte V. McClain-Nhlapo, Disability Adviser

As Disability Advisor, Ms. McClain-Nhlapo will focus on working with and supporting operational teams across the institution to ensure that Bank policies, programs and projects take people with disabilities into consideration. Her responsibilities include: leading the production of analytical products; analyzing and articulating Bank policy on disability and development, and the role that the Bank should play; establishing criteria and an operational results framework for monitoring the outcomes of the Bank's disability work.


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International Labour Organisation – Stefan Tromel, International Disability Alliance/Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Forum

Stefan Trömel is the Senior Disability Specialist in the International Labour Organization since August 2013. He coordinates, among other tasks, the ILO Global Business and Disability Network. Stefan was actively involved in the negotiation process of the United Convention on the Right of people with Disabilities between 2003 and 2006 and headed the Secretariat of the International Disability Alliance between 2008 and 2013.


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Council of Europe – Liri Kopaçi-Di Michele, Head of the Equality Division

Liri Kopaçi-Di Michele is the Head of the Equality Division at the Council of Europe in charge of promoting and implementing Council of Europe standards and activities in the area of gender equality, the rights of persons with disabilities and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading human rights organisation. It comprises 47 member states, 28 of which are members of the European Union. All Council of Europe member states have signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty designed to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The European Court of Human Rights oversees the implementation of the Convention in the member states.


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China Disabled Persons' Federation – Jia Yong, Vice President

Mr Jia Yong, Vice President of 6th Executive Board of China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF), Vice Chairperson of the All-China Sports Federation, graduated from Xi’an Sports College with BA degree in sports education. Mr Jia worked in the Mass Sports Department of General Administration of Sports of China. He also held the posts of Deputy Director General, Director General for Communication, Culture and Sports, CDPF; Chief of China Administration of Sports for Persons with Disabilities; member of the 4th Executive Board of CDPF; and Vice President of the 5th Executive Boards of CDPF.


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