Gillian Scotford and Jane Cooper - accessibility champions
Gillian Scotford and Jane Cooper are co-founders of Accessible Derbyshire, an award-winning accessible tourism charity, and directors of the consultancy, Access for All UK.
Accessible Derbyshire is dedicated to improving the travel experiences of disabled people in Derbyshire and beyond, while Access for All UK provides access consultancy, training and support services to clients in all sectors throughout the country.
Gillian says: "Visitors with access needs can often feel unsure where to go in our national parks. We wanted to work with local accommodation, attraction and activity providers to feel confident in giving a warm welcome to all. Our Peak District National Park is full of amazing accessible days out and experiences... a wonderful place for all. So many things are possible and Accessible Derbyshire has given accessible tourism a ‘home’."
Between them, Gillian and Jane have six children, three of whom are disabled. Their children became the inspiration for the charity, business and years of fundraising efforts.
Gillian explains: "We both know, first hand, the struggle of bringing up a family when someone has access requirements. We are motivated every single day when we see the smiles on the faces of people who are able to take part in life’s opportunities... with ease.
"Our children are our inspiration and our greatest teachers. They inspire us every day to create a more accessible world."
A key motivator was also the desire to build on their own love of the Peak District and to make the National Park’s stunning landscapes more accessible for everyone.
Jane recalls: "As a child, every weekend I spent time in the Peak District with my mum and dad. I fondly remember catching the Hulley’s bus from Chesterfield and looking out for the ‘waterfall’ on the hillside dropping into Baslow, knowing that a new adventure was about to begin."
Gillian adds: "I’ve had a life-long love affair with the Peak District. My mother grew up in Grindleford and then moved to Sheffield when she married. Throughout my childhood, my mum was so homesick she drove back out to Derbyshire after school for picnics and arranged daytrips in the holidays. This strong connection has never left me and I became the District Nursing Sister at Baslow surgery for 12 years until I gave up work to care for my two severely disabled children.
"Growing up, I was fit and well and never had to think about ‘access’. When both my boys were severely disabled, I felt it was important that they had the same opportunities that I had - but with additional support. Now, sailing, fishing, zip wires, train journeys, cycling... whatever you want to do in the Peak District, you can!
"Our long-term aim is to create Accessibility Champions across the Peak District National Park."
In 1999, Gillian, launched her first fundraising appeal at Ashgate Croft Special School in Chesterfield. Her son, Thomas, was a pupil at the school, whose playground had been condemned.
Supported by radio station Peak FM and the local community, the ‘Thomas Playground Appeal’ raised £100,000 to build three state-of-the-art playgrounds which are still enjoyed today. Gillian went on to be a leading campaigner and fundraiser for Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice. This very special place, which Gillian helped to create, was also where Thomas passed away peacefully in his mother’s arms in 2017, at the age of 21.
Jane's daughter, Megan, also attended Ashgate Croft School. In 2002, Jane launched the ‘Pool For Megan and Her Friends’ appeal to raise funds for a new therapy pool after the school’s old one was demolished.
Championed by a small team of volunteers, and with the huge support of local people, businesses and Derbyshire County Council, the appeal raised over £1 million in just two years. The pool has been enjoyed by thousands of young people from the school and across the local community ever since.
Jane also became a leading campaigner for Changing Places toilets - life-changing facilities which enable severely disabled people to get out and about and be changed with dignity. Today there are 1560 of these very special spaces in the UK.
Recognising in each other a shared passion to make a difference, Gillian and Jane joined forces in 2013 to create Accessible Derbyshire and, following demand for their services, set up their business, Access for All UK, a year later.
Gillian and Jane are co-founders of the England Inclusive Tourism Action Group, reviewers for the Rough Guide To Accessible Britain, judges for Yorkshire’s White Rose Tourism Awards and for the Marketing Peak District Tourism Awards.
In 2018 they were invited to share their knowledge globally as guest speakers at the World Summit on Accessible Tourism in Brussels.
They also initiated National Changing Places day, which takes places on 19th July every year.
The pair are Honorary Executives in Residence at Sheffield Hallam University and have been mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide to accessible tourism for their pioneering work.
Combining their professional expertise in training and development and healthcare with their access auditing skills, first-hand experience of disability and a passion to make a difference, Gillian and Jane’s insight and expertise, inspired by their children, provide a unique contribution to the improvement of accessibility in the UK.
Jane says: "Our Access For All UK accessibility champions receive the training, support and knowledge to open up their businesses to give a warm welcome to everyone."
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