Throughout my adult life, I have been active in a number of Disabled People’s Organisations, student bodies, and pressure and campaign groups. Enthused and politicised by my MA in Disability Studies, I started my activism journey.
I was the founding member of Disabled Students Society at the University of Leeds in 2003, where students were provided with a social and political space to discuss their experiences of being a Disabled student.
I served as a Union Academic Representative at the University of Leeds Union from May 2005 to June 2009. In this role, I held regular meetings with postgraduate students and represented their academic concerns in the staff committee meetings of the Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law. For my contribution, I received an honorary lifetime membership of Leeds University Union.
From September 2005 to October 2009, I was a Trustee and the Equal Opportunity Officer for the National Postgraduate Committee. The aim of the committee was to campaign and promote postgraduate students’ rights both nationally and in such influential European organisations as the EuroDoc.
As part of the National Students Forum, set up by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, I worked with numerous groups, specifically focusing on Disability issues, from February 2008 to September 2010. The role involved me speaking out and voicing Disabled students’ concerns to be included in Government reports and to inform policy.
From January 2012 to October 2016, I was a steering group member and researcher for Sisters of Frida, a community interest group of Disabled and allied women. I acted as an expert contributor in the field of Disability Studies, working with Disabled women on sharing experiences, mutual support and forming relationships with different networks. I also arranged the Leeds screening of Accsex, a documentary by an Indian director Shweta Ghosh about “notions of beauty, the ‘ideal body’ and sexuality through four storytellers; four women who happen to be persons with disability”. The screening was followed by presentations and discussions around women and sexuality.
Since November 2015, I have participated in the Disability Hub, Leeds City Council, and discuss with members the different disabling barriers within the community in Leeds. Following these meetings, as a representative of the same hub, I share the hub members’ needs and concerns with senior council staff and other equality hubs with the view to addressing the issues raised.
In addition, I have been an expert advisor to organisations such as the British Council Disability Advisory Panel, IncluD-ed, Pyunic in Armenia, Women’s Shield, Equality Access Forum (Leeds City Council), Equality Challenge Unit and National Institute for Health Research at the University of York. In each of these arenas, I have advised on inclusive policy and practice, always advocating for Disabled people’s rights. Wherever appropriate, I have been open to the idea of delivering workshops and seminars with ample time for discussion on relevant topics.
Since 2017, I have designed and delivered training sessions to new and existing personal assistants at the Leeds Centre for Integrated Living (Leeds CIL). The aim of the training sessions is to help participants learn how to better support and communicate with people with visual impairments. The sessions have been well attended and feedback has been positive and constructive.
I have delivered two workshops at day events arranged by local campaigning group, Leeds Tidal. The workshops were to raise awareness of Disability issues and the effects of austerity measures on Disabled women’s lives. I have also served on the Leeds for Change steering group, helping to make their website more inclusive.
I participated in the Campaign Bootcamp 10 residential week in July 2017. We learned valuable skills for creating effective and thoughtful campaigns, which have enriched my experiences as a campaigner and given me new inspiration.