Our Board

Issy McGrath – Chair

Issy studied at Glasgow University (Education Faculty) and graduated with a Bachelor of Education. She then went on to do a post grad at Oxford Brooks University and qualified to become a teacher of the deaf. Issy went onto work in a variety of educational settings with deaf and deafblind children, 15 years of which were at managerial level.

Issy was born with Usher Syndrome Type 2, a genetic form of deafblindness, Issy is completely blind and severely deaf.

Having worked extensively with deaf, deafblind and deafblind complex needs clients for many years, it is from this background that Issy brings substantial knowledge and experience to Deafblind Scotland, continuing to be an active player in the field of dual sensory loss nationally and internationally, including a recent study visit to Finland. Issy is a trained Touching Lives Facilitator where she helped to develop this peer led training.

An accomplished flautist, Issy recently won an award from the Elizabeth Eagle-Bott Memorial fund towards promoting and supporting her flute playing with a view to the Conservatoire. She is currently studying a diploma in flute performance. The Royal National Institute for the Blind recently described Issy’s flute playing as “passionate” and “inspirational”.

Currently residing between Glasgow and Luing Island in the Western Isles, Issy enjoys going out and about and is a well-kent figure striding along with her trusty guide dog, Yang.

Irene McClure

During her working life, she spent time as a teacher within special education, culminating in the last 15 years as the Head Teacher of Merkland

School for children with wide ranging special educational needs . During this time she was very passionate about ensuring that the children had the best possible opportunities to thrive and that they had strong connections with children in mainstream schools. This was a wonderful part of her career and promoting the social inclusion of children who had more difficult lives has many parallels to the work of Deafblind Scotland. She knows from this experience how easily people can be excluded and she brings this experience and passion for equality to the board.  

The final 2 years of her career were spent working as an inclusion officer within East Dunbartonshire Council.  She has her own experience of sensory loss, registered as severely visually impaired in 20/02/2020. Her experience of support has been positive but this isn’t the case for everyone and she wants to do what she can to support others who have had a more difficult transition to a sensory loss.

John Long

“As with all disabled people you have disabilities thrust upon you either from birth or, as in my case, as a result of an accident. At least I had the opportunity to get some life skills prior to my accident and I also had a father who had a disability but that did not stop him from doing the things he wanted. His attitude was adapt and find a way to achieve your goal. After going through the period of self-pity at losing a very comfortable and fulfilling way of life, I suddenly grasped the meaning of my father’s philosophy. It did not help that the various doctors said negatively you cannot do that anymore, whereas my wife said you can, but we just must find the way to do it now. Life started to slowly open up a new path for me and I now had the time to learn new skills and pastimes. I joined the choral society and found I had an acceptable tenor voice. I could travel and that lead to participating in both blind and disabled sailing to a competitive level.

As a result of having a guide dog which always draws people to speak to you, I was asked to come and speak about disabilities to various groups and eventually was invited to do disability awareness training in local schools. Life became a challenge which I gladly accepted to be overcome to achieve my personal goals. Being in the various disability groups gave me opportunities but during the discussion the discriminations of disabled life were highlighted, as well as my personal experiences on some occasions. As my energetic activities are being curtailed this is perhaps my new challenge, to highlight this aspect of disabled life. I am happy to use my previous skills and experiences including my 23 years in the Royal Navy and reserves to help and encourage those not able to speak for themselves, and to listen when they have down days to try to encourage them to make a fulfilling and productive life path whether on wheels or guided by the four-legged partner or just to overcome the challenges of the hidden disability. I have been a committed member of Deafblind Scotland’s Dare to Dream Leadership Group helping to consult with other members on the Lived Experience Manifesto and Deafblind Scotland’s new strategy and I am now an Ambassador within Deafblind Scotland Right to Dream Leadership Group where I will be working with the other 11 Ambassadors to raise awareness amongst deafblind people of their Human Rights across the country.”

Colin Heatherington

Colin worked for Pinneys of Scotland for 25 years starting at the bottom and working my way up to senior management, where I managed 10 departments. After 25 years I took my redundancy due to the progression of Usher’s Syndrome.

Following this I ran my own business and latterly a shop in Dumfries until I had to retire completely. I have personally found deafblindness very difficult and it’s not been an easy journey.  I have worked very hard and tried to find the right answers. I have constantly had to adjust to my condition trying to keep one step in front including use of hearing aids, long cane and a guide dog.

I have had some rough times but also had so many amazing times when I realised I was not the only one in the world to be deafblind. I started a group called the Northern alliance in Newcastle which now has over 130 members and run meetings 3 times a year with professionals and deafblind people from all over UK giving talks and encouragement to others.

As a result of my work with this group I was nominated for deafblind person of the year, 7 years ago and I came runner up which was a huge surprise and accolade. I was then put forward as a Trustee at Sense Scotland achieving many things as chair of fundraising. I work with many charities and one that has served me well is Retina UK and I was fortunate enough to take some of the key issues to a meeting at No 10 Downing street, mainly as a result of my role in leading the Northern Alliance.

Paul Cunningham

Paul contributes as an advocate and experienced campaigner for disability rights. He lives with almost full sight loss and has been a member of Glasgow Disability Alliance’s (GDA) ‘Drivers for Change’ Group for over 10 years. He applies the knowledge and experience gained campaigning at the Scottish Parliament and Westminster on the bedroom tax and hate crime bill amongst many others to his work with Deafblind Scotland. 

He consulted extensively during the COVID pandemic focusing on the specific impacts on disabled people. Not limited to; street changes and redesign, digital inclusion, shopping, and the accessibility of COVID testing kits.

Over and above his campaigning he carries out accessibility consulting and auditing, ranging from streets, bridges, and buildings, to software, documents, and apps.

He keeps his objectives in the forefront of his mind and focuses on the nuance. He aims to work at being as thorough with the small details, often overlooked by those without lived experience, as well as the bigger organisational picture.

One of his strengths is to bring a light-heartedness to what can be difficult, challenging, and emotional discussions. The key is timing.

Kyle Bettley

Having worked as a guide-communicator in 2005 – 2006 and having a grandfather who experienced dual sensory loss later in life, he has always had a special place in his heart for Deafblind Scotland and the amazing work the organisation does to improve the lives of those experiencing deafblindness. It is for this reason that guiding, supporting, deafblind manual, BSL and tactile BSL are now an integral part of both his personal and professional life.

Kyle is a Senior Lecturer and Development Advisor at Glasgow Clyde College, as well as an External Verifier for the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). These roles have allowed him to develop a wide range of experience in inclusive education, qualification development, eLearning, commercial training, coaching and management. Additionally, he is a proficient BSL user and has excellent communication skills with the ability to adapt to the needs of each individual situation.

Equality and fairness of access are values he is passionate about and would like to contribute to building a more inclusive society, particularly one that has a greater awareness of deafblindness, communication and support needs. It is for these reasons that he offers his skills and experience to support the Deafblind Scotland board and welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the strategic planning of the organisation for the future.”