Meet the judges
Exceptional accomplishments and work supporting blind and partially sighted people are recognised - across seven categories - by RNIB’s See Differently Awards. Our independent, expert judging panel, selected with relevant personal and professional experience in mind, assesses the nominations in each category to select the winners.
Gus Alexiou, Disability Inclusion Journalist
Gus Alexiou is a disability inclusion journalist for Forbes covering everything from assistive technology to social policy and the arts.
He developed sight loss at the age of 25 due to a medical condition that damaged his optic nerve. During this time of transition to living with low vision, he says RNIB played a critical role in showing him technology that could help him – and in introducing him to other people who had been through similar experiences.
Gus has also written about disability for many UK newspapers including The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Independent.
He adds: “I am proud to support RNIB’s See Differently Awards which celebrate the amazing achievements of people living with sight loss from around the UK.”
Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People's Postcode Lottery
Laura Chow is a specialist in grant making, non-profit partnerships, fundraising and volunteer programmes having worked in both non-profit and private sector community roles for more than 20 years in the UK and Asia Pacific.
She is a 2021 Blossom Award Winner (Community category) and was highly commended in the Finance category of the Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2014.
Laura has been Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery since 2016. People's Postcode Lottery has managed society lotteries on behalf of charitable bodies since 2005. A minimum of 33 per cent of the ticket price goes to charities. Players of People's Postcode Lottery have raised more than £1.2 billion for more than 12,000 good causes.
David Clarke, CEO Paralympics GB
In March 2023, David was appointed as the first disabled CEO of the British Paralympic Association after spending nearly five years at RNIB where he was Chief Operating Officer.
David joined RNIB as Director of Services in a role which focused on its consumer and commercial services as well as giving people with sight loss access to the information, advice and guidance they need.
Previously, David had a highly successful career in the banking sector spanning 24 years.
He is also a former international footballer having represented Great Britain and England’s blind football team 144 times - scoring 128 goals.
Professor Leon Davies, President of The College of Optometrists
Leon is an optometrist, Professor of Optometry & Physiological Optics and Head of the School of Optometry at Aston University and President of The College of Optometrists. He is a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers, and Fellow of The College of Optometrists, the American Academy of Optometry and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Leon is a recipient of the College of Optometrists Research Fellowship Award and the inaugural Neil Charman Medal for research excellence, while also a past Clinical Editor of Optometry Today, and a past Editor-in-Chief of the peer reviewed journal OiP. He has served as a Council member and Board Trustee of The College of Optometrists and tswas elected its President in 2022.
Leon says: “I’m delighted to be able to help celebrate the outstanding accomplishments and inspirational stories of those working tirelessly to improve the lives of blind and partially sighted people as a judge of the RNIB’s See Differently Awards.”
Debbie Miller, Director of Customer Experience and Engagement RNIB
Debbie is Director of Customer Experience and Engagement at RNIB and has put customers and their experiences at the heart of organisations for 22 years.
She joined RNIB two years ago and is determined to ensure people affected by sight loss don't feel like they should limit their expectations about the lives they can lead.
Debbie was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and Uveitis, an associated eye inflammatory condition, when she was five years old; these conditions have led to complex eye conditions and sight loss.
Debbie started her career in online retail before moving to commercial services. She is experienced in Customer Relationship Management.
She says: “I've lived with sight loss for 25 years, yet every day working at RNIB I learn something new about the impact sight loss has on people's lives.”
Stuart Pearce, Volunteer at RNIB
Stuart is a dedicated full-time volunteer at various charities, including RNIB, where he has volunteered since 2018 giving talks on the various services that RNIB provides.
Stuart has diabetic retinopathy, detached retinas, advanced cataracts and Charles Bonnet syndrome; he was a heavy goods vehicle driver for 10 years – a job he thoroughly loved - until he had to give it up due to his deteriorating sight.
He is married with four children and six grandchildren. In his spare time, Stuart loves playing cricket and golf; he gets around supported by Olivia, his beloved Guide Dog. Stuart’s voice can be heard in RNIB’s new sonic logo.
He adds: “It’s exciting to be a judge for RNIB’s See Differently Awards; it’s really important to acknowledge the great work that people do and reward them.”
Fiona Sandford, CEO Visionary
Fiona is Chief Executive of the Visionary membership organisation which includes more than 110 local visual impairment charities across the UK. Visionary supports its members as they strive to be “the best they can be” ensuring people with sight loss can access information, advice and support locally.
Previously, Fiona was Chief Executive of visual impairment charity Visibility in Scotland. Fiona is also a Trustee of two grant-giving trusts – The Corra Foundation and The Blindcraft Trust.
Fiona has been Chief Executive of Visionary for four years; she says she loves her job and being part of the positive impact that Visionary member organisations have within their local communities.
Claire Sisk, Disability awareness content creator
Claire Sisk is a blind content creator and an accessibility consultant. She is dedicated to breaking barriers and authentically portraying the real experience of living with sight loss.
With a passion for enlightenment and education, Claire strives to show the strength within the visually impaired community. As an accessibility consultant, she collaborates with brands to build inclusive spaces.
Beyond consultancy, she is a dedicated advocate, using her unique - and often humorous - approach to tirelessly raise awareness and break down barriers.
Claire won the Best Social Media Impact of the Year category at the RNIB See Differently Awards 2022.
Matt Stringer, CEO RNIB
Matt Stringer joined RNIB as CEO in 2019. Over the last five years he’s led the charity through challenging times, including the COVID-19 pandemic and cost-of-living crisis.
Previous to his role at RNIB, Matt spent 30 years working in the retail sector where he held senior leadership roles for well-known high street brands including Marks and Spencer, Carphone Warehouse and Mothercare.
Matt says: “I never cease to be amazed by the tenacity of RNIB’s customers, volunteers, staff and supporters. During my time as CEO, I’ve witnessed first-hand how we’ve rallied together to campaign for change, pushing forward even when times are tough. There’s a lot we still need to achieve, but I know we can do it. Together, we’ll create a world that’s built for everyone. Our See Differently Awards are a great way to recognise and celebrate the individuals and organisations who have dedicated their skills, passion and time to improving the lives of blind and partially sighted people.”
Emma Tracey, producer and co-presenter on BBC’s Access All: Disability News and Mental Health
Emma hosts Access All, the weekly disability and mental health podcast from BBC News. She can often be heard on The BBC World Service, Radio 4 and 5 Live too.
Moving to London, Emma joined the BBC in 2005 as a researcher and has been producing and presenting podcasts and radio ever since. Emma, who is blind, now lives with her husband and two young boys in Fife, Scotland. She loves wild swimming, singing and a good book.