The term ‘disability’ is in common use and the 2010 Equality Act recognises disability as a protected characteristic. But do we yet really understand the needs of people with disabilities? The discussion will centre around the question of how well higher education fares in supporting students with disabilities.
  • Date 17 November 2020 - 5.00 p.m. - 17 November 2020 - 6.00 p.m.
  • Location Virtual

All college members are welcome, please register on Eventbrite

This panel discussion, chaired by the President, Professor Maggie Snowling, will invite alumnae of St. John’s to reflect on their experience as students and on what kinds of support have helped them in their future careers. We will reflect on what progress has been made in 40 years and what steps still need to be taken to ensure a fully inclusive environment for learning. 

The panel will consist of: Dr. Helen Willis, Senior Programme Administrator, University of Reading; Deb Sanders, Data Architect, University of Oxford; Ruth Everard, Managing Director of Dragonmobility.

This event is part of our 40 Years of Women: Aspiring towards Diversity and Equality at St John’s



Professor Margaret (Maggie) Snowling, CBE, FBA, FMedSci

Professor Maggie Snowling is President of St John's College and Professor of Psychology at the University of Oxford. She is also professionally qualified as a clinical psychologist. Her research on children’s reading and language is at the interface of psychology and education and she is committed to widening access to higher education.

Maggie was awarded the British Psychological Society Presidents' Award (2003) and the Samuel T Orton Award of the International Dyslexia Association (2005); she is Past-President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading and former Joint Editor of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. She served on Sir Jim Rose’s Expert Advisory Group on provision for Dyslexia, was advisor to the Phonics Screening Check in England and an expert member of the Education for All: Fast Track Initiative group in Washington DC in (2011) and she is currently an advisor to DfE on the Reception Baseline Assessment.

Maggie has been awarded honorary doctorates from Goldsmiths London (2010), University College London (2014) and Warwick University (2016) for contributions to the science of reading and dyslexia.

She is Fellow of the British Academy, Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. She was appointed CBE for services to science and the understanding of dyslexia in 2016.



Dr Helen Willis

Dr. Helen Willis graduated in 2014 with a First Class Degree in Physiology and Psychology and an MSc in Neuroscience. Her PhD at UCL investigated the cognitive load imposed by cochlear implantation and deafness. Her more recent qualifications in hypnotherapy and psychotherapy have enabled her to begin to develop her own business as a Stress Management Consultant, providing education, advice and treatment for relieving chronic stress. Her consultancy “Soothing Stress Strategies” is due to be launched in early 2021. 


Deb Sanders
As an undergraduate studying Modern Languages, Deb didn't know why she struggled socially. 16 years later, she found the answer, together with new insights into her strengths as well as her challenges. Deb now shares those insights with the people around her, to create an environment where she can thrive. She works as a Data Architect at the University of Oxford.


Ruth Everard

Born in Cambridge, England, Ruth Everard is the eldest child of Dan and Louise Everard. She has a genetic condition called spinal muscular atrophy which causes severe muscle weakness and means she has never been able to walk at all. However, she was the original "wheelchair toddler", mobile from the age of twenty-two months in a revolutionary machine designed by her father.

The Everard family are pioneers and are passionate in their belief that young disabled children should be mobile on time, no excuses, in order to enable them to reach developmental milestones with their peers. Because Ruth has not been faced with the additional limitations on her abilities caused by immobility and dependence she has had an upbringing as close to mainstream as possible. She is effectively a non-disabled person with wheels.

Ruth was educated in mainstream education all the way from nursery school to a law degree at St John's College, Oxford. In her twenties, she qualified as a solicitor. She is now managing director of Dragonmobility, a social enterprise which enables the next generation of disabled children and young adults to access education with augmented mobility.