2022 Winner


Pioneering activist has spent her life campaigning on behalf of other blind and partially-sighted people, with remarkable results.

After losing her sight on her wedding day, Jill has spent the last 50 years working to improve the lives of other blind and partially-sighted people  in the UK and across Europe. Born fully sighted in 1940, a bout of measles meant Jill had to have one of her eyes removed as a baby. Aged just 24, on her wedding day, she lost her sight completely because of glaucoma – unrelated to her childhood illness.

When Jill found out she was pregnant a few months later, doctors urged her to have an abortion – saying her blindness would make her an unfit mother. She insisted on keeping the baby but eventually conceded to being sterilised.

For the next seven years blindness rendered Jill virtually housebound. Then in 1972 she got her first guide dog, Topsy and joined the National Federation of the Blind. Since then she has been working to improve the lives of blind and partially-sighted people. Appalled at how few places allowed guide dogs – including one instance where she was denied entry to a public library – Jill began campaigning for better access to public spaces for the vital support animals.

Today, they are allowed in many more places including shops, restaurants, cinemas and the House of Commons.  She also initiated tactile paving at pedestrian crossings, earning her an MBE in 1983 – although at thqe time her guide dog was not allowed to accompany her to the ceremony.  Jill went on to be awarded an OBE in 2011 and continues to campaign for better access to fair benefits and financial support.

Now 82, Jill has given hundreds of talks to schoolchildren, raised thousands of pounds for blindness charities and became the first female president of the National Federation of the Blind UK. And she shows no signs of slowing down. She says: “I want to sit back and relax, but there is still so much to campaign for. The rights of blind people are continuing not to be considered, so I will keep working to fight that.”