Board of Directors
Martin Kelly - Chairperson
Martin is the current Chairperson of DESSA, appointed by the DESSA Board at the 2023 Annual General Meeting. As a lifetime athlete and former Paralympian, Martin picked up the disability baton when he joined Newbridge Access Group (NAG) and, shortly afterwards, signed up with the newly formed People with Disabilities Ireland (PwDI) as a member of the Kildare PwDI Network Committee. Wearing this hat, as a Blind person Martin represented people with a disability on the Board of the newly established Kildare Sports Partnership (KSP). Working closely with the KSP Sports Inclusion Development Officer (SIDO), many doors were opened for PwD’s to engage in a range of sporting activities. The SIDO programme is now well established across the country and is going from strength to strength. Martin’s personal interest in VI/Blind Sport also enabled him to join the Board of Vision Sports Ireland (VSI), on which he served two terms until the 2022 AGM, when under the rules, he needed to stand down. Martin is currently serving as a Board Member of the National League of the Blind (NLBIT).
Jacqui Browne - Vice Chairperson
Jacqui Browne is Vice Chairperson of DESSA. She has over 30 years of experience working at local, national, European and International levels as a disability equality activist and consultant. She is a former member of Commission on Status of People with Disabilities whose report in 1996 A Strategy for Equality was a blueprint for disability rights in Ireland.
Jacqui was recently appointed as a member of the Disability Advisory Committee to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission regarding the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. She is also a board member of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Irish Thalidomide Association and is actively involved as a patient advocate in IPPOSI – the Irish Platform for Patient Organisations, Science and Industry and is a EUPATI Fellow – European Patient Advocacy Training Initiative.
Brian Miller – Company Secretary
Brian Miller B. Comm. M.Sc. Dip. Counselling, N.D.I.R.S. has considerable experience of managing and organising services and supports for people with disabilities. Previously, he worked for 24 years as a Regional Manager on the National Rehabilitation Board, with responsibility for training and employment of people with disability. He was also a Senior Policy Adviser on Training and Employment with the National Disability Authority and Disability Manager with the Health Service Executive, with responsibility for residential, day and home supports services for people with disabilities.
Pat Wylie - Treasurer
Pat Wylie worked as a Higher Principal Officer in the Dept. of Justice and Equality. In the course of his career he served as Secretary of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities and Chair of the Interdepartmental Committee on the Establishment of a Third Level Institute for people with a learning disability in Trinity College. At European level he was a participant in the E.U. HELIOS Programme to promote the social inclusion of people with disabilities. He was also a member of the E.U. High Level Group on Disability and Chair of the Council of Europe Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities.
Susan Carton, St. Angela’s College, Sligo Programme director B.A. (Health and Disability Studies) and B.A. (Disability Equality Studies). Susan trained as a nurse for people with intellectual disabilities in Scotland in the late 1980s. On her return to Ireland, Susan worked for the Daughters of Charity in Dublin where she undertook a B.A. in Health Service Administration with the Institute of Public Administration. This was followed by an M.Sc. in Intellectual Disability Studies at the University of Birmingham.
Susan moved to the School of Nursing in Cregg House in 2002 and has been working in St. Angela’s College, Sligo, since 2003. In 2009/2010, in Partnership with Peter and DESSA Susan worked on the first Disability Studies degree – B.A. (Health and Disability Studies) which is a three-year, full-time course.
In 2014 the same team developed the B.A. (Disability Equality Studies) which is a four-year online, part-time programme. St. Angela’s also deliver a one-year level 7 Certificate in Disability Studies and are in the process of having a Master’s programme in Disability Studies approved.
As well as membership of the DESSA board, she is also involved in the Irish Disability Studies association, the Sligo Disability Network and the Leitrim Disability Equality Network.
Geraldine is an Autism Specialist, Advocate, Transition Coordinator and Trainer, with a long involvement in the areas of awareness, support, education, transition coordination, and training.
Geraldine has many years experiences of working with parents and young people on the autism spectrum, policymakers, educators, health professionals and government agencies.
Geraldine delivers the A.B.C. of Autism Course in the B.F.E.I., and designs and delivers bespoke workshops for parents, educators, healthcare professionals and employers.
Geraldine regularly consults parents, educators, healthcare professionals and schools to support children and young people on the autism spectrum.
Geraldine was awarded a certificate in Management in the Community & Voluntary Sector from National College of Ireland in 2000, a Masters in Equality Studies from U.C.D. in 2005, a Higher Certificate in Advocacy Studies from Sligo I.T. in 2010 and received her trainer certificate in 2013 from the Hibernian Institute.
At present, Geraldine is involved with AsFan (Autism Spectrum Family Advocacy Network). AsFan is a not for profit group that works in partnership with families, schools, service providers and state bodies.
AsFan provides information, advice, advocacy, support and skills training for families, for professionals and social care workers and assists parents, students and schools in transition planning and coordination from school to adult life.
Anne Colgan is an independent management consultant, with extensive experience in the field of disability policy, strategy and service provision. Anne’s key skills and experience include organisational development, strategic planning and stakeholder engagement. Anne has wide experience in the disability field, having worked as a senior manager in several roles in the former National Rehabilitation Board.
Anne was advisor to the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities. She worked as a consultant on several major service development programmes including New Directions, The H.S.E. programme for restructuring of adult day services, Time to Move on from Congregated Settings, and a number of Department of Health programmes, including the 2001 Health Strategy.
Anne has worked with a wide cross-section of disability service providers on the design of structures for service-user involvement, quality management, organisational strategy and research.
Lucy Harrington B. Ed, M. Ed
Lucy has worked in the education/community sector for the past twenty five years. She worked as Lifelong Learning Manager and Education Co-ordinator with an area based Partnership Company for eighteen years and prior to this as a Home Economics teacher both in Ireland and Southern Africa. Over this time she has led the development of targeted youth and adult education programmes within the community and formal education sectors. During her time as Lifelong Learning Manager, she worked closely with DESSA in the delivery of programmes to promote disability equality and inclusion in local communities. Lucy has a teenage daughter who has Down Syndrome. She has been active over the years in advocating for the rights of people with Down Syndrome.