Board of Trustees (2016-2017)
The following were elected by the members of Communication Matters to serve as Trustees from September 2016:
I am a AAC user with cerebral palsy. I have been passionate about disability issues from a young age and been around the AAC world for about a decade. I have a Masters degree in disability studies and special education and I am able to discuss and analyse the complicated issues around disability especially AAC in a wider context - in fact I enjoy it! I have spoken to the The All-Party Parliamentary Disability Group about provision of AAC. I have been a Channel 4 continuity announcer with my communication aid! I am a company director of The Unspoken Project CIC, a theatre Community Interest Company which works with non disabled people and disabled people especially those with speech impairments who may use assistive technology to communicate. I feel I am able to add to Communication Matters because I have worked with AAC users of all ages and abilities.
I am a Clinical Scientist working with the Assistive Technology Team based in Barnsley. We are a Specialised Service and assess adults and children with a range of disabilities for Electronic Assistive Technology, including Communication Aids and Environmental Control Systems. I am extremely passionate about Electronic Assistive Technology but also the importance of it being appropriately developed and provided, as technology, in order to work, needs to fit the needs of the person. Outside of work, I am a busy mum of twins who enjoys baking and teaching aerobics. In addition I have a sibling with significant physical and learning disabilities which I feel has provided me with insight into the challenges that families face.
I have worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital in the Neurodisability service for eight years, initially as a research assistant and now in my current role: as a Healthcare Scientist supporting children with communication difficulties and their families. My background is in linguistics and language sciences and I developed my interest in AAC and assistive technology after becoming involved in research in the field. I am particularly interested in working with eye-gaze technology and in the use of mainstream technologies in specialist support. I am also enrolled at University College London, studying for a PhD in the use of eye-tracking technology in the assessment of functional gaze control and the development of computer access. I have been a Trustee of Communication Matters for almost four years and have relished every second of it: I find it hugely exciting to be part of this organisation and to help it grow and adapt to the changes and challenges we face. Outside of work, I live in London and spend far too much time (and money) in record shops.
Nicola Hayton (Treasurer)
I am a speech and language therapist with 20 years experience. I work with adult with acquired neurological conditions in Sheffield. I also have a background in working with young adults with learning disabilities in specialist colleges. I have support people in the use of AAC since I qualified. I have been a Trustee for the last 2 years and recently became the treasurer for the charity. Away from work I enjoy live music, watching football and walking.
Victoria Healy (Deputy Chair)
I am a Speech and Language Therapist who has worked with people who use AAC for over fifteen years. I am currently the AAC Specialist SLT for the Physical and Sensory Support Service which provides assessment and support for children and young people and their families across Surrey. I also work at The Ridgeway Community School in Farnham and I relish the challenges that each day brings. In my past life I worked at the Assistive Communication Service in London and had a brief stint on the 'other side' as a product advisor for Logan Technologies. I live in Hampshire and spend any spare time I have juggling three energetic children. I have been attending Communication Matters events for many years and am loving my time so far as a trustee.
Having been involved in AAC issues for almost 16 years I am really pleased to be able to use some of my skills and experience (from both my personal and working/voluntary life) to support CM at an important time when it is growing and increasing its wider influence.
I am the parent of an 18 year old AAC user, but also have a background in linguistics & phonetics (and philosophy, just in case), and am a qualified teacher. I have worked as a charity advisor (governance and fundraising) as well as for CAB, and have been a trustee of 1 Voice, chair of a local cerebral palsy society branch and a non-executive director of Friends of the Earth. I currently represent 1 Voice on the Communication Consortium and was on the board of The Communication Trust for 3 years.
I believe passionately in the right of all people without speech to have access not just to AAC, but also to education, work and opportunities others take for granted. CM has an important role to play in raising other people's expectations of AAC users across a range of settings and as a trustee I hope I will be able to help CM work towards this, and other goals which will benefit those who use or need to use AAC.
Toby Hewson (Co-Chair)
As well as being a trustee for Communication Matters, which by the way I love, I run my own charity called Just Different - we visit schools to talk to the children about disability and difference. When I'm not working I love playing wheelchair football or going skiing.
I completed a PhD that explored the experiences of using the internet and social media by young people who use AAC at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2013. I am now a Senior Lecturer on the Speech and Language Therapy course at Leeds Beckett University. I continue to pursue my passion to support people who use AAC and their families through two roles: being a current trustee with Communication Matters and a volunteer with the charity 1Voice.
Hester Mackay (Co-opted)
I currently work as a teacher for the Kent and Medway Communication Assistive Technology (KM CAT) Hub Service in Ashford. I trained as a mainstream primary teacher and have always been fascinated by early childhood development. As a result I ended up teaching the Foundation Stage for most of my career before joining the CAT service. Now a large part of my job is supporting children and staff in both mainstream and special schools where having the background knowledge of the challenges schools and teachers face has been invaluable. I have a particular interest in how literacy is taught to non-verbal children and how best to support children with complex communication needs to acquire the literacy skills that are essential to open up a world of functional communication. I have seen from my own experiences how much of a difference AAC can make and I am thrilled to be working with CM as a trustee to help get that message out there. Outside of work I volunteer as a Brownie and Senior Section Leader, I love baking and swimming whenever I can find some spare time!
Ruth McMorran (Co-Chair)
I have worked in the field of special education for over thirty years. My background is in teaching and I have additional postgraduate qualifications in special education, vision impairment and assistive technology. Currently I work with children and young people, their families/carers, and other professionals delivering training and implementation support both at home and at school. I also carry out assessments and write assistive technology reports for litigation. I have recently moved to live in the lovely town of Kirkcudbright in South West Scotland.
I am currently an AAC Consultant working at the ACE Centre, providing AAC assessment and equipment via an NHS England Specialised Service contract. I have a background in Speech and Language Therapy and have worked in AAC for sixteen years. I have held posts within the NHS and also for the National Autistic Society as a Speech and Language Therapist and more recently worked as part of the content development and implementation team and DynaVox Mayer-Johnson. I have relied on the support of Communication Matters in the past and see the benefits it brings to many involved in the field of AAC. As a newer trustee I am excited about the future of Communication Matters and the hard work ahead!
I am a speech and language therapist working in SCTCI (an AAC assessment service covering most of Scotland). Throughout my career I've always had an interest in AAC and am passionate about promoting the communication opportunities for people who use AAC. When I'm not working I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, traveling and exploring our beautiful countryside.
I have worked in Assistive Technology and AAC for 20 years; for the last 7 years I have worked for Smartbox Assistive Technology. My current role is as Head of Assessment at Smartbox. My role involves giving advice and support to professionals, parents and individuals on a range of AAC devices and access solutions, whilst also ensuring colleagues are knowledgeable in the advice they give to others. It has also meant I have been able to attend Communication Matters events and conference over several years. My background is as a teacher, where I worked in Primary and Secondary schools, with a specialist setting for children with physical disabilities. I went on to work in a role training SEN teachers, and then spent 5 years working for a national assistive technology charity, where I led on assistive technology assessments and training for children and young adults. I have lots of hobbies and interests, especially outside; gardening, walking, cooking (of a sort), watching cricket at Worcester when I can. I'll say it quietly... I also quite like steam trains and have a model railway in the loft that keeps me busy in the Winter!