London Sight Loss Council members
Charmaine is a partially sighted, active mum of two small, spirited girls, aged eight and five. She has previously worked as a procurement professional across a range of sectors and has used her learned skills and knowledge to communicate requirements of stakeholders across a variety of corporate environments.
Charmaine loves art, culture and popular music and has enjoyed attending concerts in the past. She loves reading and is a great fan of audiobooks and podcasts.
“I’m very excited to become a member of the London Sight Loss Council as I want to give back to the community as a volunteer, to be an advocate for the needs of visually impaired people in London, to enable and assist and be a valued member of society in accordance with the many skills and attributes that we as blind and partially sighted have to contribute”.
Haren has a 20-year career in the energy sector predominantly as a lobbyist and has spent the last five years as a blind professional. Following sight loss, Haren has taken up active participation in para sports including triathlon and snowboarding. Some of his other interests include attending music gigs, reading and politics.
Haren lives in South West London with his 4-year-old guide dog called Addie.
“I am excited and honoured to be involved with the London Sight Loss Council and the opportunity to use my experience and skills to benefit London’s blind and partially sighted community and help achieve the London Sight Los Council’s objectives and maximise its profile.”
Jonathan Abro is a Freelance IT Project Manager and Consultant specialising in software development projects and in making all applications accessible to people of all abilities and impairments. Jonathan grew up in a farming community in Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa before living in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town. He has been living in London since the mid-1990s.
His passion is for travel and has spent (and continues to spend) as much time as he can exploring some far-flung places including climbing Kilimanjaro and camping on the ice in Antarctica.
Jonathan is Registered Blind due to Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP); he is a Trustee of VocalEyes, the charity that provides access to the arts through audio description. He is also a Tech Volunteer for RNIB and a member of the London Group of Retina UK. As a member of the London Sight Loss Council, Jonathan’s aims are to help make Technology and Services more accessible to blind and partially sighted people and to help make London, one of the most exciting cities in the world, more accessible to everyone regardless of ability or impairment.
Lucy graduated with a Master’s degree in Physics and Astronomy from Durham University. She grew up in Bristol, where she attended educational programmes for blind and partially sighted children ran by the RNIB. Lucy moved to South London in 2018.
She previously worked in journal publishing at the Royal Astronomical Society, and has given talks online and at conferences about accessibility for disabled people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). She now works in the sight loss sector.
Lucy has Oculocutaneous Albinism, so has been partially sighted since birth. She enjoys reading and runs an Instagram account where she promotes books by disabled authors (@disabledreader), after noticing a lack of good disability representation in popular books. She also loves music and going to gigs all over the city, and teaching herself guitar.
“Growing up with a visual impairment can be challenging, but I’ve had amazing support and encouragement from my family and friends. It’s important and refreshing to meet people with similar eye conditions and I’m particularly excited to meet and work with the other Sight Loss Council members to be a force for positive change in London, for current and future Londoners in our community”
Rachel Bowden Waterson
Rachel is a graduate of Durham University and the Royal Academy of music. She moved to London in 1999 from her native north-east to pursue her love of music and theatre. It came as a great shock within a couple of years to have received a diagnosis of uveitis and secondary glaucoma, seemingly without cause and with an absence of any family history of eye disease. A veteran of numerous eye operations, Rachel is now part of Moorfields Eye Hospital research into some of the unexplained reasons why eye disease can occur.
Rachel has years of experience as an events manager and fundraiser for not-for-profit organisations including RNIB, Blind Veterans UK, Variety Club and RUSI. Having worked throughout her sight loss journey, Rachel is particularly keen to ensure that visually impaired employees are given access to appropriate support and training to ensure that they can excel within any given workplace.
In usual times, Rachel loves swimming, family outings and spending time with friends. Rachel always has at least one audiobook on the go and loves listening to the radio and audio described film and television performances.
Mariza Jürgens has a BA (Honours) in International Politics and is a qualified diplomat, securities trader and securities compliance officer. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Merton Vision and on the Vision Foundation’s Centenary Appeal Board. Mariza was nominated for the 2020 UNESCO/Emir Jaber Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities in recognition of her tireless advocacy and work in the field of access to digital and assistive technologies for persons with disabilities.
Mrs Jürgens is severely visually impaired and has a particular interest in alleviating the high unemployment rate for persons with visual impairments through better and equal access to digital assistive technologies. She wishes to use her platform as a London Sight Loss Council Member to advocate for equal access to jobs, entertainment and transport for persons with visual impairment.
Renu has been visually impaired from birth and was diagnosed in 2019 with a rare genetic condition called Achromatopsia.
“Since receiving my diagnosis, I have been actively networking with other blind and partially sighted peers and have developed an in-depth understanding of the challenges faced in society. There is still a lack of awareness and education about visual impairment. As a London Sight Loss Council member I’m keen to raise awareness and educate about vision impairment and to deliver this knowledge with a positive, optimistic and holistic approach”.
Renu has many interests, including martial arts, walking, reading and cooking; “I’m a huge kitchen gadget fan and become a big kid with a new toy when I receive a new gadget”. She enjoys going on adventures both big and small, and she’s a social butterfly, really enjoying socialising and pursuing new experiences.
Steven has been a professional actor for over 20 years, performing on the large and small screen, as well as in theatre. When beginning his sight loss journey, Steven thought his acting career was over, however, the theatre company Extant helped him rediscover his love of performing and see things differently; his career has continued to flourish.
Diagnosed with Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) in July 2014, Steven has central vision loss and attended a ‘Living with Sight Loss’ course run by the RNIB in the spring of 2015.
“This peer support course really helped me to overcome some of the barriers I was facing in my daily life and I’m a passionate advocate for the power of peer support. This inspired me to volunteer and I became a facilitator on the course. In 2020 I became the secretary of my local sight loss organisation, Blind in Greenwich, working closely with other societies and committees across London.”
Selina has forged a career as a writer, broadcaster and passionate disability rights advocate. Formerly a broadcast journalist with the BBC, where she formed part of the team that created “Disability: A New History” for BBC Radio 4. Selina has worked as a journalist for the Daily Telegraph and Reuters in Rome, and has written extensively on the history of blindness including an upcoming non-fiction book for Bloomsbury, for release later in 2021.
Selina has a love of the arts and theatre and advocates for all theatres across London to provide audio description as standard and are accessible for all disabilities. In her spare time, she writes opera librettos, and hopes to see her first collaboration with disability theatre group Graeae come to London stage next year. Selina’s passion for disability rights has led to a role working for Leonard Cheshire.
As she says herself: “I have around 20% vision on a good day, and I’m legally blind, or as I prefer to say: ‘Blindish’. I wanted to become a member of the London Sight Loss Council as I’m keen to support blind and partially sighted Londoners to find their voice via advocacy, social media and citizen reporting”.
Vicky built a professional career as a Building Surveyor for many years before starting to lose her sight. Following a diagnosis of an eye condition called Stargardt’s she began a 10 year career working for a local Council in an administrative role. When made redundant in 2011, she decided to take time out to raise her young family.
“I didn’t know any blind and partially sighted people, but in 2019 I began to really connect within the sight loss community in London and I have not looked back since. Travelling in and around London increased my passion in the need for accessibility and inclusion in the built environment and public transport”.
With sight loss expected to increase dramatically, Vicky hopes that the London Sight Loss Council will raise awareness and inform policy makers, professionals, local authorities and educate the wider public in the issues faced by people living with sight loss, especially where this is hidden.
“I’m excited about the ongoing progress of assistive technologies and digital accessibility in this increasingly visual virtual world”.
Steve’s skills as a counsellor have been growing since the millennium culminating with a Masters in Counselling and Psychotherapy in 2018 and he now works with a range of different services. In addition to his clinical practice, he works collaboratively with his local rehab service and other organisations including TPT and RNIB to support projects focussed on the rehabilitation, enablement and empowerment of people experiencing sight loss.
Away from his clinical practice, he loves live classical music and dashes off to every audio described theatre performance he can as AD has allowed him to reclaim one of his greatest passions.
His own sight loss stems from Choroideremia, a degenerative condition which he describes as “tiny misty clouds have gathered on my peripheral vision, more clouds have kept joining them and things have grown ever darker; only leaving me with light perception”
Steven says: “By being part of LSLC, I’ll be able to support other members of the VI community, be their advocate and aid in the drawing together of London’s visually impaired community as, by being a single voice, we can avoid the risk of being unseen.”
Martia Bevan is a qualified therapist (MBACP) and psychotherapist, providing support for adults who have various presenting issues including bereavement and sight loss. She has worked and volunteered for many years in a variety of sectors including higher education and disability. She has also provided emotional support and counselling to adult carers, those experiencing abuse and mental distress.
Martia’s personal and professional sight loss journey began at age 19 and her journey has been a challenging transition, requiring new ways of learning to be ‘blind’ which nobody ever tells you how to do. She decided to join the London Sight Loss Council because she is keen to be part of a project that will attempt to tackle the challenges, obstacles and accessibility issues that blind and partially sighted people encounter in education, work and service provision.
In her spare time Martia enjoys writing poetry and short stories one of which includes a script capturing a woman experiencing sight loss which was performed at a London workshop. Martia enjoys yoga, Pilates, meditation and mindfulness which she finds useful for relaxation. she has participated in a number of fund-raising initiatives including a sky dive for Mind, sponsored walks for Parkinson’s UK and the Alzheimer’s Society and hopes to continue these activities to support the sight loss sector.
Jurgen can be regularly found popping up on talk radio such as LBC and BBC Radio 5 Live raising issues and challenges affecting blind and partially sighted people in the community.
Jurgen recently lost his sight in 2019, after having been diagnosed with a brain tumour. Since then, he has become an advocate for blind and partially sighted people in the community, working on a variety of campaigns with the sight loss charity Vision Foundation.
Other members of the London Sight Loss Council include:
- Davinder Kullar