Allan, (71), has been a member of the RiDC panel for many years, and has taken part in surveys, user testing and mystery shopping research with us.
Living in Essex, he was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease at birth, which caused him to have vision loss. His vision has deteriorated over the years to the point where he can now only perceive light.
A keen sportsman, he represented GB in athletics in the 1977 European Games in Poland where he broke the world record for a partially sighted athlete in the 400 metres. He went on to represent GB at the 1980 Paralympics held in Holland.
Allan also had a long professional career, working in local government, adult education and the charity sector, where he was a senior manager at Guide Dogs for the Blind for 20 years. After retiring 11 years ago, he served as a magistrate and a Director of Essex Blind Charity, recently also accepting a role as a Trustee of a local arts centre. He now enjoys walking, tai chi, going to the theatre and has found a love for sculpting with clay.
He believes that RiDC and the panel play a fundamental role in raising awareness of the everyday experience of disabled people:
“I don’t believe people go out intentionally to make life more difficult for disabled people. They are just unaware. It’s the role of organisations like RiDC and us as panel members to raise awareness - to say ‘If you did it this way you would have more customers’.”
On why it’s important that disabled people share their experiences:
“When I hear disabled people talk about something - a service, equipment, holiday booking, I take much more notice. It has more credibility, and weight. As people living with a disability, we are best placed to comment. We are dealing with challenges every day of our lives and are so used to inventing ‘workarounds’. I often say we are the best problem solvers in the world!”
“I recently took part in user testing of shampoo packaging – looking at various brands and assessing them from their grip to dispensing. It made me think ‘this could be improved’. Not just for me, but for non-disabled people too. If you can make it better for everyone, why not do it?”
On what he enjoys about being part of RiDC research projects:
“The RiDC surveys have always been well thought through. So many of us have taken part in other surveys or given feedback and you have no idea what the outcome is. Feedback works two ways and RiDC lets us know how things have changed because of our research.”
“When there are focus groups, I get a lot out of hearing first hand from other disabled people too. What’s important to them? What’s vital to someone with a mobility impairment for example may not be as crucial to me as a blind person. RiDC has a multi-disability approach which is so important. If something can work for you, as well as another disabled person and include a non-disabled person, that’s fantastic.”
Allan feels that although a lot has improved, we need to keep going and not be complacent.
“Much has improved in the last decade with technology vastly opening up my world and we need to keep that going. There’s no room for complacency. We need to keep disability in the forefront of the minds of government and decision makers. I think of who is coming on behind me and what they can look forward to. Hopefully a more inclusive, accessible world – on all levels – from opening a tin of beans to high-tech software.”