Isabella Goldie – Chief Executive
Isabella is the Chief Executive at Deafblind Scotland, appointed in early April 2019. Isabella has a wide range of experience working in charities but started her career as nurse in 1984.
For the previous 15 years Isabella worked within the Mental Health Foundation, managing See Me the national anti- stigma programme, establishing the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, working with Refugees to establish projects such as Amaan for women who experienced trauma and developed a new service user led organisation – Voices of Experience (VOX). She supported the strategic development of mental health services in Scotland through working with the Scottish Government to develop the National Standards for Crisis Services and undertaking the Review of Mental Health Services: Commitment 1 of the Scottish Mental Health Strategy (2012-15).
Over the past five years Isabella has worked as UK Director, leading Research, Policy and Innovation Programmes for the Mental Health Foundation alongside a programme of international public mental health partnerships.
On taking up her role she is delighted to be leading an organisation with such an obvious commitment to improving lives but also to working side by side with members and those that use its services to ensure that people who experience dual sensory impairment are at the heart of the organisation’.
Furthermore, she has stated that ‘it is an enormous privilege to be invited to lead the organisation through the next stage of development.
Margaret Stygal – Head of Finance, Resources and Membership
Margaret joined Deafblind Scotland during 2012 and has responsibility for the financial activities of all aspects of the Charity. Her career has spanned more than 35 years, employed in many different environments including both public, private sector organisations.
As a member of the executive team Margaret ensures that the Charity’s financial accounting is monitored and reported to the Board of Directors. She is an integral part of the team and is pivotal maintaining and developing robust systems and processes. She is also responsible for liaising with and developing external relationships where appropriate with funders and providers alike.
Elaine Henson – Head of Operations
Elaine previously worked for a financial institution for 23 years and embarked on a massive career change when she started with Deafblind Scotland in December 2003 as Literacy and Numeracy Project Officer. Since then Elaine has managed several projects including Community Involvement, Volunteering, Charity Shop and Participation.
Elaine achieved her Diploma in Deafblind Studies in 2009, which allowed her to broaden her skills and knowledge of deafblindness. She joined the Guide/communicator team in April 2013 and since then has completed a PDA in Supervision and SVQ 4. As Depute Manager she liaises with stakeholders, maintains networks with colleagues in sensory impairment and beyond, assesses for membership, negotiates, sets up and reviews services and is involved in the day to day running of the service.
Elaine is a regular supporter of events and has been known to parade the catwalk at a fundraising fashion show!
Heather Black – Service Manager
Heather began working as the Service Manager with Deafblind Scotland in August 2022. Heather oversees the Guide/Communicator service and has regular contact with members, their families, stakeholders and providers. Heather supports the Service Co-ordinators as well as the Guide/Communicator team.
Heather has achieved her BSL level 3, PDA Supervision, an SVQ4 and is currently undertaking a Masters. Heather has worked for various charities throughout her career and supported many individuals with a variety of needs within different environments. Heather has been part of the Deaf community for many years and previously worked with a grant-aided organisation supporting Deaf young people. Heather has enjoyed expanding her communication skills learning Deafblind Manual and looks forward to using this, as well as Hands on and Visual Frame signing, within her role.
Outside of work, Heather enjoys renovating houses, cooking, watching tv shows and looking after her many pets.
Christine Small – Service Co-ordinator
Christine joined DBS as Service Co-ordinator with the Guide Communicator Service in January 2020 after working with Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland for 15 years as a Regional Trainer.
During her time with DBS Christine has enjoyed working and building relationships with Service Users and Guide Communicators which has allowed her to build on her knowledge of DBS and the vital role of the Guide Service within the wider community.
She enjoys working as part of a team with her colleagues to ensure that DBS is delivering a service of high quality and meeting the needs of our service users.
Christine is married with 3 grown up children and when she is not working she enjoys spending time with family and friends.
Sam Kennedy – Service Co-ordinator
Sam joined DBS as a Service Co-ordinator with the Guide/communicator Service in April 2022 after taking the leap from the finance industry that she had been working in for 18 years.
During her time with DBS Sam has enjoyed meeting and continuing to meet service users and guide/communicators, allowing her to build on her knowledge of DBS as a whole and understand the vital role in which she plays as Service Co-ordinator within the organisation.
She enjoys learning new skills and has recently completed BSL Level 1 qualification. Working as part of a team with her colleagues in the DBS Office Sam is committed to delivering a high quality service and helping to meet the needs of our service users and guide/communicators.
Sam is married with one daughter and when she is not working she spends her time walking her dog and watching her daughter swim.
Carolanne Martin – Finance Administrator
Carolanne has worked with Deafblind Scotland as an Administrator since 2007. Her role primarily involves the smooth running of all daily and monthly administration tasks associated within the Finance and Service Department, including regular contact with the Guide/Communicators. Carolanne thoroughly enjoys working with all her colleagues at Deafblind Scotland and since joining the Charity she has gained qualifications in BSL level 2. She is currently undertaking a course on Sage Financial Controller Accounting Software.
Sarah Gillen – Fundraising Manager
Sarah has worked in the voluntary sector for over 20 years, spending the last 8 years in grant fundraising. She has considerable experience in writing successful funding applications that evidence the three vital considerations for funders – real need, value for money and a well managed project. Sarah is a member of the Institute of Fundraising (IOF) and is a committee member of the IOF’s Special Interest Group – trusts and grants.
Sarah is responsible for implementing Deafblind Scotland’s income strategy and managing the fundraising team.
Sarah and her husband love the Scottish seaside, having family parties and spending time with their cat Daisy.
Sandra McNab – Community and Events Fundraiser
Sandra joined Deafblind Scotland in October 2013 as a Community and Events Fundraiser organising various events such as our first Ladies Lunch and Midnight Walk. Sandra also worked closely with volunteers to help at various can collection at supermarkets, shopping centres and festivals. In September 2014, Sandra took over the management of our charity shop in Kirkintilloch which was closed for refurbishment and reopened on 30th October 2014.
Julie Ritchie – Senior Development Leader
Julie joined Deafblind Scotland in August 2019 in the fundraising department. She organised key fundraising events events, such as our annual Santa Dash and due to Covid-19 facilitated the transition of events to virtual and on-line activities. Julie gained her BSL Level 1 qualification in January 2021 .
In May 2021, Julie started working part-time with the Welfare Rights Team. Julie ensured anyone referred to Deafblind Scotland was receiving their maximum income and would help complete benefit application forms.
In October 2021, Julie took on the role of Senior Development Leader. Julie organises member activities both on-line and in-person at our Learning and Development Centre. She also plans excursions for members and will apply for grants for accessible equipment. She oversees our Touching Lives Take 2 project and Wellbeing projects.
In her spare time, Julie enjoys walking and cycling. She spends time with her family and is kept busy looking after her 2 young sons.
John Whitfield – Participation and Training Officer
The health access project aims to ensure deafblind people can fully benefit from mainstream health and social care services. The project aims to highlight the needs of deafblind people for communication support to allow them to access services. John can provide advice and assist on developing policies and solutions.
John is also our Training Officer, whose priority it is to ensure all DbS Guide Communicators and Staff are qualified to provide the highest level of communication & guiding support in the various formats for people living with dual sensory impairment and enable deafblind people equal access to information, communication and mobility. John travels all over Scotland & Islands to deliver DbS in-house Courses such as Awareness training and Deafblind Manual. He is often called upon to deliver talks to Public Organisations, Private Businesses and to Social groups.
John has Usher syndrome type 2. He has been severely deaf from birth and wears two hearing aids and lip reads. In his late teens his sight began to deteriorate due to Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) otherwise known as tunnel vision and he now has 5% of vision left.
John was first introduced to Deafblind UK in 1999 when, as a psychology student, he interviewed dual sensory people for his dissertation. John started working for Deafblind Scotland when it was formed in 2000 and has now worked for them in many different capacities.
John enjoys a challenge. He has walked The Great Wall of China, undertaken The Inca trail to Machu Picchu and trekked the Grand Canyon!
Helen Campbell – Senior Programme Leader
Helen works as Welfare Rights Officer in the Kirkintilloch Office. The project “Connect to Welfare Rights” began in August 2014 and Helen and the team give advice and assistance with welfare information, benefit checks, money matters and anything to do with equal rights or access. As the project is supported by Visibility they also assist visually impaired people. Helen advises the aim is to maximise income for sensory impaired adults by researching up to date information, distribute in accessible formats, providing home visits to complete forms and promoting independence and equal opportunities.
Helen began working with Deafblind Scotland in September 2005 as a temp answering phones and carrying out general admin tasks. She then progressed to the Guide Services Department coordinating and allocating jobs to guide communicators. This involved working closely with both guides and deafblind service users. Helen has also volunteered with Citizens Advice in her evenings and weekends.
Helen’s background is catering and she worked in various catering management roles before changing direction and coming to Deafblind Scotland.
Dawn Forsyth – Welfare Rights Project Officer
I began working with Deafblind Scotland in April 2019 as a Guide/Communicator assisting Service Users to lead independent lives. BSL Level 1 2021 & currently studying for BSL Level 2.
Before working in Deafblind Scotland I ran my own business which was music classes for pre-school children. I come from a customer service background and worked in various roles in different companies for many years.
In my spare time I enjoy walking and playing piano. I organise activities & lessons for the children of my church.
Jojo Keenan – Carers Advice Project Worker
My name is Jojo and I joined Deafblind Scotland in September 2023 as a Project Worker in the Carer’s Advice Project, based in Fife. My role is supporting carers affected by sensory loss, by visiting them in their own homes, to give advice and assistance with welfare information, benefit checks and anything to do with equal rights and access.
I previously worked for 5 years with a Deaf charity where I studied the different levels of BSL and gained my PDA in British Sign Language Studies. I enjoyed this and look forward to expanding my knowledge of Deafblindness and my communication skills by learning the Deafblind manual.
I originally studied for a BA in Management and have many years of management experience in the hospitality industry, running the family business, before deciding on a change of direction.
Outside of work I love to spend time with family friends and my animals – especially walking my dog. I enjoy traveling when time allows and visits to my favourite place in Spain.
Ruth Hart – Senior Programme Leader
Ruth first worked for Deafblind Scotland as a guide/communicator, while at university studying Psychology in 2003. After university she completed the Diploma in Deafblind Studies and went on to run the Community Planning Involvement Project within Deafblind Scotland, then worked in several other areas of the charity.
She spent some away years in other charities across Scotland as an event manager and operations manager before returning to Deafblind Scotland in 2016.
As Senior Programme Leader she focused on equality and human rights work with deafblind people and those in wider society. The Dare to Dream project established a group of deafblind ambassadors who work together as peers, using their lived experience to ensure deafblind people’s experiences and views are heard. This group also created the Manifesto of Deafblind People’s Rights, created in consultation across Scottish deafblind people and which formed the basis for Deafblind Scotland’s 5 Year Strategy and Policy Influencing Plan 2022.
Her work focuses on leading programmes for deafblind people including BSL Cafes, Carers, consultations and others that provide deafblind people with opportunities to grow, learn new skills, have their voice heard and work towards living as equal citizens in our society.
In her spare time, she enjoys holidays with her husband, painting watercolours and crocheting.
Jonathan Reid – Programme Manager
Jonathan works as the program manager for the Right to Dream project at Deafblind Scotland.
He has worked for over 20 years in the field of deafblindness, disability, the arts and communication. He is passionate about developing potentials for co-created understanding and agency through creative approaches and education. He worked for many years at Sense Scotland as a communication and arts practitioner, and more recently as the National Coordinator for the See Hear Strategy based at the Health and Social Care Alliance, where he helped to develop the Scottish Sensory Hub.
Over the years, Jonathan has developed several approaches to his work within the field of deafblindness including designing and delivering several bespoke training courses for organisations and speaking nationally and internationally on the subjects of congenital deafblindness, communication, creativity and identity.
Jonathan is also the coordinator for the Nordic Cognition Network in relation to Congenital Deafblindness through the Nordic Welfare Centre and regularly contributes to publications and webinars on the subject of deafblindness, cognition and communication.
Between 2010 – 2018 Jonathan worked as a first marker, assessor and supervisor for the Graduate Diploma in Deafblind Studies qualification in which many UK-based and international students developed qualifications within the field of deafblindness. The certificate and diploma learning from this course considered both congenital and acquired deafblindness, and the impact of the condition on communication, information and mobility.
He completed his MSc in special pedagogy from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands in 2014 and remains a lead member of the Alumni committee for this international group of professionals in the deafblind field. In 2021, Jonathan also graduated from the supervisor course for the Tactile Working Memory Scale through the Nordic Welfare Centre, a course which aims to develop cognitive assessment tools and protocols and lead to greater life experiences and potentials for people living with deafblindness.
Nicola Hughes – Project Coordinator Right to Dream and Touching Lives
My name is Nicola and I joined Deafblind Scotland in September 2023 as a Project Co-ordinator. My role involves delivering training around human rights and raising awareness of deafblindness throughout Scotland. I have been involved with the deaf community for many years as a CODA. I am qualified to level 2 in BSL and recently completed a BA Hons Social Sciences Degree.
My previous experience includes working with the human rights-based organisation, The Advocacy Project, and prior to this as a Criminal Justice Worker with Police Scotland.
In my spare time, I enjoy the outdoors such as walking, hiking and cycling with my partner and our newly adopted rescue dog from Romania. I also love to travel, visiting different countries and embracing new cultures