The winners of the RNIB See Differently Awards 2019

On the 26 November, RNIB hosted the first RNIB See Differently Awards, which celebrated those who have gone above and beyond in removing barriers for blind and partially sighted people. 
See Differently Awards ceremony. Dining hall filled with guests.

After a rigorous judging process, RNIB was thrilled to announce the seven National winners in the below categories:

Campaigner of the Year, sponsored by Sony

Rachael Andrews 

Rachael has campaigned tirelessly to change UK voting law and secure a more accessible voting system for blind and partially sighted people across the nation. After successfully filing against her local council for not providing an accessible voting card that enabled her to vote independently, she took her case to the High Court to advocate that all blind and partially sighted people in the UK have mandatory access to accessible voting. The High Court ruled in favour of her campaign in March of this year.

Innovator of the Year, sponsored by Heathrow

Tactile Collider

The Tactile Collider project, led by Rob Appleby, Chris Edmonds and Robyn Watson, aims to promote a love of science among visually impaired students.  The team worked with people with sight loss to develop a unique workshop that educates pupils on particle physics through sound recordings and tactile models. By making science accessible, the team have created an opportunity for children with sight loss to feel excited and empowered to pursue a career in science. The workshop has been in such demand that, so far, the team has visited over 20 schools across the UK, as well as selected museums and festivals.

Community Contributor of the Year, sponsored by Novartis

Fraser Fleming

Fraser, who lives in Glasgow and is registered blind, understands how important it is to have access to the right technology if you live with sight loss. In 2018 he established Triple Tap Tech with his friend Graham to proactively address this issue. A social enterprise that teaches assistive technology across various platforms, Triple Tap Tech has delivered training sessions to over 100 individuals in its first year of business.

Social Media Influencer of the Year, sponsored by Amazon

Holly Tuke

Holly, who has been blind since birth, started her blog Life of a Blind Girl in 2015 to illuminate what it’s like to be a young woman with sight loss.  She writes about music, attending university, making social media and blogging more accessible, assistive technology, and employment and disability. Holly has received numerous accolades for her work in breaking down barriers for blind and partially sighted people. Earlier this year she was named one of the most influential disabled people in the UK in the Shaw Trust Disability Power List 2019 for the second year in a row, and her content has been featured by the BBC and the Huffington Post.

Team of the Year, sponsored by Alcon

The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety

Fifty-three percent of blind and partially sighted people have experienced hate crimes due to their disability, highlighting the importance of an organisation like The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety. The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety is a volunteer-run initiative that teaches defence skills to various groups including blind and partially sighted people. Its courses are led by trainers who have sight loss themselves and over the last two years they have trained 450 blind and partially people in personal safety.

Employer of the Year, sponsored by RNIB

Financial Times

The Financial Times promotes equitable employment for blind and partially sighted people through initiatives like FT Access. FT Access is an employee-led network that educates staff about disabilities, including sight loss, in the workplace. Collaborating with the FT’s Diversity & Inclusion and Talent teams, the group identifies opportunities to recruit more candidates with disabilities, creates supported internships and work experience and, most recently, has piloted a creative writing workshop for people with sight loss.

Sixth Duke of Westminster Lifetime Achievement Award

Mike Brace, the winner of this year’s lifetime achievement award, has made an outstanding contribution to business, sport and charity, changing perceptions of disability and inspiring thousands. In 2003 Mike was awarded an OBE and, in 2009, a CBE for Services to Disabled Sport.

Born in Hackney, East London, in 1950, Mike has always loved sport. However, at the age of ten, his life dramatically changed. Blinded in one eye, after an accident with fireworks, Mike then lost sight in his second eye two years later from a detached retina. At 12, he reluctantly went to a specialist boarding school, but there he re-discovered his love of sport.

In 1973 he founded the Metro Sports Club for the Blind. Later, he helped set up The British Paralympic Association, British Blind Sport and the British Ski Club for the Disabled.

Mike went on to become a successful cross-country skier. He managed, and competed in, the Paralympic ski team. A talented and versatile athlete, aged 33, he completed the Devizes to Westminster 125-mile canoe marathon. It took him and his guide 27 hours of non-stop canoeing, without sleep, in the worst weather conditions in the history of the race.

As a board member of both the successful Olympic and Paralympic 2012 Bid Team, Mike was appointed to the London Organising Committee for London 2012 and later became CEO for the newly formed VISION 2020 UK, an organisation which unites various charities, including RNIB, and health services involved in sight loss.

Mike told us what winning this lifetime achievement award means to him: “I did these things over the years because they needed doing and I wanted to change perceptions, so to have this recognised is a shock, but gives you a little glow inside. By showing what someone with a vision impairment can do, I’m hoping it might spur on other people with a VI to say, ‘Yes, I can do that too!’”