When I spoke to Kerry, she was just recovering from a wonderful evening in Liverpool Cathedral. She had been invited to the National Diversity Awards as a finalist for the Positive Role Model in Disability. She had been shortlisted from 52,000 to 8 and given all, she has achieved, it is clear to see why.
Kerry tells me that she got into campaigning and advocacy by accident. She had grown up with family members with MD but it was when she started struggling herself and began attending MDUK muscle groups, talked to others, that she saw the barriers people shared and wanted to do something about them. A blog about Changing Places caught her eye and led her to get involved in that campaign. “It was a revelation that these existed and I wanted to know more”. Kerry wanted to know more about why it was such a struggle and what could be done. It led to her writing a blog and talking to people. After approaching Tesco, she found herself telling her story to a room full of directors and managers. As a result, the supermarket chain pledged to incorporate Changing Places facilities into 35 stores. To date, there are 103!
In Kerry’s own words she found her voice. “I was frustrated with just putting up with everything being a struggle.” She is honest, direct and has developed a way of engaging with people that gets the message across. Not only in person but through her blogging. Whereas she used to walk on eggshells she says she has grown as a person and taken on board feedback. She offers advice to others who want to campaign or advocate about an issue important to them “Blog, talk to people, your story is the most powerful tool you have”.
Regarding favourite or memorable moments, Kerry says it’s hard to pick just one. Starting from that first meeting with Tesco when she was terrified, she has learned and taken something from every single interaction. She does however tell me about a very special moment when on accepting the MDUK President’s award she got to meet Michael Attenborough (son of Richard Attenborough).
At present Kerry works for the Changing Places Consortium and when I ask her what is in the pipeline currently, I can see her eyes light up. She is not known as the “queen of toilets” for nothing! Her passion for campaigning about the struggle to find suitable facilities outside your home environment is clear and powerful. The consortium is delivering and managing government projects such as transport, hospitals, and local authority projects.
Campaigning is very often a long and slow process and for that, you need the passion and determination and realism, all of which Kerry has in spades. In conversation, Kerry tells me how the National Diversity Awards have reignited her drive and commitment to improving life and promoting independence for disabled people “It spurred the fire in me again, and I think I needed that.”.
Kerry lives with her husband and receives PA support. In her free time, she enjoys the cinema and cites campaigning as is one of her hobbies. She particularly enjoys writing and she is an active member of Pathfinders. Kerry runs the Pathfinders’ Women’s Table Talk group which covers all manners of subjects from light-hearted chit chat to the harder-hitting health concerns. She says she likes to be busy and is keen to also show that disabled people can live an independent life. Changing things so that future generations don’t have to fight to remove barriers is high up on her agenda “If I can change one person’s life for the better then I’m happy”.
Find out more about Kerry here
Read more from Pathfinders here
Written by Sarah Rose