Our Alumnus of the Month for September is Journalism graduate Simon Sansome, founder of disability advice website, Ability Access. He has recently been named on The Independent’s Happy List 2019 for creating Ability Access, a blog and Facebook page that allows people to highlight access issues for wheelchair users in their communities.
The idea came about after Simon, then 32, lost the use of his legs in an accident. He found he was unable to visit his favourite restaurants and pubs in a wheelchair – which led him to create Ability Access.
Five years later, and Simon’s now reaching seven million people a month and is running the UK’s most-read dedicated disability page on Facebook.
Simon, from Leicester Forest East, travels around the UK putting his journalism skills to good use, interviewing disabled celebrities to highlight issues on his own podcast, called While Disabled.
“I had no idea that I’d been nominated let alone made the final 50,” he said. “It was surprising, and a bit humbling.
“I started this five years ago as more of a group chat and now we are getting 10 million hits a month from all over the world. It’s become a community with people sharing their experiences, their stories or ask questions. It’s become a full time job.”
The Happy List was set up by the news organisation in 2008 as “an antidote to the greed-driven celebrity rich lists”. Those on the list are described as “the most inspirational people whose kindness, ingenuity and bravery have made Britain a better place to live.”
Christian Broughton, editor of The Independent, said: “We are living in a time of great uncertainty, which makes it all the more valuable to shine a light on remarkable people who simply strive to make Britain a better place.
“All of those on the Happy List give back to society rather than take from it, and what makes it even more special is that the nominations come from you, our readers.
“At a time when economic, social and political changes are leaving us uncertain about our future, and society seems more fragmented than ever, the Happy List is a moment to celebrate unsung heroes whose good deeds remind us of the best of humanity.
“Everyone featured should be very proud of the difference they have made”.
The 50 people who are featured in the list were chosen and researched from appeals across social media and nominations from readers. In previous years, the Happy List included Britain’s longest-serving barmaid, a man who provided free exercise classes for the elderly and a couple who bought a house for a family of refugees. The Happy List is backed by GoFundMe, an online fundraising platform.
Discussing his time at DMU, he highlighted the quality of the tutors and support staff: "I always found the staff at De Montfort really helpful and willing to listen when I had any issues arising from my disability. DMU is an accessible university, but where I did request access changes, they acted quickly to accommodate me. I'd encourage any current or future students to make the most of the support on offer."
Posted on Monday 21st October 2019