Innovation for Independence


Chair of the judging panel - Halima Khan, Director, Nesta

Halima is a Director of the Innovation Lab and is responsible for overseeing programmes that test public service innovation in practice.

Prior to joining Nesta in December 2010, Halima was Deputy Director at the Strategy Unit, Cabinet Office, providing policy advice to the Prime Minister, No.10 and Cabinet Office ministers on a range of domestic policy issues.

Halima has spent ten years working on public service reform in central and local government with a particular focus on social care, health and disability.

Before her MPA, Halima worked in international development with a particular focus on sustainable development. She worked for local NGOs in Pakistan and South Africa as well as the Human Development Report Office at UNDP.

Halima has a first class degree from the University of Oxford and a Masters in Public Administration, MPA, from the Harvard Kennedy School, where she was a Frank Knox Fellow 2000-2002. Halima is also a member of the Council of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

Alan Norton, Into Independence Ltd

Into Independence Ltd is a consultancy focused on disability and equality training, access audits and promoting independent living and assistive technology. He previously served as CEO of Assist UK for 9 years, where he used most forms of transport.  He is a full-time electric wheelchair user and lives independently with his disabled wife of 42 years. He spent most of his working life in finance holding a senior position for a multinational battery manufacturer. He has vast experience of assistive technology, especially regarding adaptions to vehicles and has worked closely for many years with the directors and staff of Motability.

Alan currently sits on many advisory groups including the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority), DWP (Department of Work and Pensions, PIP), D4D (Devices for Dignity), JCMD (The Joint Committee on Mobility for Disabled People) and Disabled Living Manchester. 

Alan's hobbies are motorsport and fishing.

Cam Nicholl, Sales and Service Development Director, Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC)
Cam Nicholl is a digital accessibility advocate and has been active in this field since 2004.

Cam is a co-founder and the Sales and Service Development Director of the Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC), a successful not-for-profit Social Enterprise based in South Wales. 

DAC currently employs 18 staff of which 13 are people with disabilities, who as a team work tirelessly testing web and mobile products to ensure everyone can access them regardless of age and/or ability.

Cam has excellent practical knowledge of assistive software and their application to Web/mobile products, in addition to sound knowledge of accessibility guidelines and current UK and international legislation.

Cam is also a steering group member of the Disability Action Alliance.

Caroline Jacobs, Co-Director, RICA
Caroline has over 25 years' experience of business development and service delivery within the voluntary sector. As a graduate of University College London's Architecture and Planning School, Caroline initially worked on the design and delivery of specialist housing. She is now Co-Director of Rica (Research Institute for Consumer Affairs) a research organisation that specialises in user centred research with older and disabled consumers.

Caroline has a particular interest in inclusive design and the role of consumer research in helping to design and promote accessible products and services. Rica’s technology research has included usability testing digital TV equipment, mobile phones, smart metering in-home displays and heating controls, all with input from Rica’s panel of 250 disabled consumers. Current research is looking at inclusive cooking appliances and in-car safety technologies.

Colin Ettinger, Personal Injury Lawyer, Irwin Mitchell
Colin Ettinger has over 35 years’ experience representing and helping clients who have sustained injuries which have proved to be life changing events. 

Colin has been described as a “Claimants’ Champion”, and has been given particular praise for his receptiveness to rehabilitation issues. He continues to be at the forefront of ensuring that the rehabilitation process becomes an important part of achieving the maximum that can be done for clients in terms of their recovery and identifying how a disability can be best managed to achieve the best outcome and quality of life.

For a number of years he has been rated as one of the top Claimant lawyers in London, and now, in England. He was also made an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Law at the University of Lancaster in 2007 for his ‘outstanding contribution to personal injury lawyering and the pursuit of justice’.

Colin joined the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) when it was formed in 1990.   He was their first London Regional Co-ordinator in 1995 and was voted on to the Executive in 1999.   He became Vice President in 2003 and President in 2004. He is now a Past President, life Member and Senior Fellow and has been re-elected to the APIL Executive Committee. He is an APIL accredited brain injury specialist.

Colin is also on the editorial board of the Journal of Personal Injury Law, a Patron of RoadPeace (a charity that supports the victims of road crashes) and is a Vice President of the College of Occupational Therapists. 

David Constantine MBE, Co-founder of Motivation
David Constantine is the co-founder of Motivation, a charity which initiates self-sustaining projects to enhance the quality of life of people with mobility disabilities. When travelling around Australia in 1982 David misjudged a dive and broke his neck at level C4/5.

Only twenty-one years old, he was planning to pursue a career in agriculture but the accident left him a quadriplegic. After completing a degree in Computing, David worked with IBM for two years and then took an MA in Computer Related Design at the Royal College of Art (RCA).

While at the RCA David, along with fellow student Simon Gue, designed an award-winning wheelchair for the developing world. Together with Richard Frost they travelled to Bangladesh to test their design, and in 1991 returned to set up the first Motivation project: a workshop producing affordable and appropriate wheelchairs with a simple design. Motivation has now reached over 160,000 beneficiaries. It is one of the few organisations that deals with both the design and provision of mobility products and services and the wider social and economic needs of people with mobility disabilities.

David is also a semi-professional photographer whose work has been exhibited throughout the UK and USA.

Jess Thom, co-founder, Tourettes Hero
Writer, artist and part time superhero, Jess Thom who has Tourettes Syndrome, co-founded Touretteshero in 2010 as a creative response to her experience of living with the condition. Backstage In Biscuit Land is Jess’s debut show. Having Tourettes makes her neurologically incapable of staying on script, and that’s where the fun beings.

Jess has written in the mainstream and disability press including The Guardian, The Observer and Disability Now. In 2012 she published Welcome to Biscuit Land – A Year In the Life of Touretteshero, with a foreword by Stephen Fry. In 2014 she held an improvisation workshop with Nina Conti and Monkey with extraordinary results. In the same year she performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, Glastonbury and Shambala festivals and hosted a one-day event for children with Tourettes at Tate Britain.

Jess has spoken widely in the media about her life with Tourettes, including on Woman’s Hour, Good Morning, and The Saturday Night Show in Ireland. In 2013 she gave a TEDx talk on The Alchemy of Chaos at the Royal Albert Hall and became a continuity announcer for Channel 4 as part of their Born Risky season. This work continued in 2014 when Jess joined the freelance continuity team at Channel 4. On Twitter as @Touretteshero Jess has built up a strong following of over 7,000.

A visual and participatory artist in her own right, Jess has worked with Tate, South London Gallery and the Chisenhale. Jess creates accessible works that explore wide-ranging experiences.

Other useful links:

Laurence Clark
Laurence Clark is an internationally-acclaimed comedian, presenter, writer and actor who has cerebral palsy.  His observational, political stand-up and hidden camera footage demonstrate the endearing naivety and ridiculousness of human behaviour by seeing the world through his eyes with humour and warmth.  He’s performed everywhere from the House of Commons to a double-decker bus in Sheffield.  His 6 critically-acclaimed solo shows at the Edinburgh Fringe have gained him 21 4-star and 3 5-star reviews.

With television appearances on BBC, ITV and Channel 4, Laurence was the subject of a major BBC1 documentary called “We Won’t Drop the Baby” shown in March 2012.  He was awardedShortlist magazine’s Funniest New Comedian, for 5 years wrote a popular blog for BBC Ouch and regularly performs and writes sketches for comedy collective Abnormally Funny People, resident at London’s Soho Theatre.

Liz Sayce, Chief Executive, Disability Rights UK
Liz Sayce is Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK, the UK’s leading pan-disability organisation. She is a Commissioner at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and a member of the Committee of Healthwatch England. She led an Independent Review into disability employment programmes in 2011.

From 2000-2007 she was Director, Policy and Communications, for the Disability Rights Commission, where she led on creating a new Disability Agenda for policy for the next 2 decades, covering skills, employment, housing, health, social care and more. She also directed a Formal Investigation into physical health inequalities experienced by people with mental health problems and/or learning disabilities. Previously she was Director of Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Health Action Zone.  She spent 8 years as Policy Director of Mind, and one year as a Harkness Fellow in the USA, studying the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act and related policy initiatives. She was a member of the UK Government’s Disability Rights Task Force (1997-99). With personal experience and knowledge of mental health issues, she has published widely on mental health, disability and social inclusion, including From Psychiatric Patient to Citizen (Macmillan-Palgrave 2000).

Liz was awarded an OBE in 2008 in recognition of services to disabled people and an honorary doctorate from the University of Kent in 2014.


Sarah Drinkwater, Head of Campus London, Google 

Sarah heads up Campus London, Google’s first physical startup hub, providing early stage founders with work and event space, mentorship and educational programs as well as access to a vibrant startup community. Since launch in 2012, Campus has built a community of 50,000.

Passionate about entrepreneurship and communities, Sarah’s previous role at Google was leading a global team of community managers around Google Maps, while also volunteering at Campus helping run Campus for Mums. Before Google, she worked in content and community for startups, advised brands on their social media, and was a journalist, and holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Reading and an M.A. from University College London.

Sarah’s on the board of Code First: Girls which provides classes and a support network for young women keen to work in tech and combines her enthusiasms for education and diversity. Outside of work, Sarah loves travelling, cycling, cities and stories, and lives in East London with her soon-to-be husband. 

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