Talking trusteeships with Matt Wadsworth
“If you are blind or partially sighted, your lived experience is a positive skill you can bring to the boardroom table.”
We catch up with Matt Wadsworth, Trustee at Thomas Pocklington Trust, to find out about his life, challenges and what he likes about being a trustee.
Matt Wadsworth joined the board at Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) in March 2017. He said: “I jumped at the chance of taking on my first trusteeship with TPT.”
“It genuinely has always been an organisation that stood out for me in the sector. I have good knowledge of the sight loss sector and TPT aligns with my values. It’s the type of organisation that wants to empower blind and partially sighted people, not just assert power.”
The board at TPT usually meets in person four times a year and receives monthly email updates from the senior leadership team. Matt said: “The board at TPT is always efficient and professional. I really enjoy working with the rest of the trustees; everyone has a common goal, but each trustee has a different experience and something new to bring. For example, one trustee is an expert in governance whereas I can bring my experience in business and entrepreneurship.”
In 2013 Matt created the app Good Food Talks. The platform makes restaurant menus accessible – making it easier for visually impaired people to dine out. The app has been revolutionary for blind and partially sighted diners and is now used by 3000 restaurants across the UK.
He is also a professional musician, having played the lute for over 20 years. He has performed concerts both solo and with other singers in Europe, North America and Hong Kong. Two years ago, Matt and his wife started running the record label DEUX-ELLS. He said: “I did my first recording with the label in 2003.
The record helped launch my professional career and now I want to give back to young people looking to get into the business – because I realise it’s not easy.”
Born blind, Matt went to a specialist school until he was 11 years old. After this, he went into the mainstream school system, which he said had a real impact on his attitude towards life: “The more adaptable you are – the better you will do. I always tell people if I need something different, I will let you know, but otherwise treat me like everyone else.”
That attitude has stood him in good stead for success. He was the first blind student at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, before going on to the Royal Academy of Music where he received the London Student of the Year award.
Throughout his career, Matt has found assistive technology to be very helpful. “I use everything! iPhone voice over has been a real game changer and, I think, the best piece of technology since Braille.
Since joining the board at TPT, Matt has been proud and delighted to see the organisation flourish. “All trustees are responsible for the guardianship of TPT. The organisation went through a difficult phase a few years back and seeing how the organisation has adapted brings me real pride.
“It’s when something rocky happens and you can all pull together as a team you know there’s something special.”
His advice to any blind or partially sighted person thinking about taking up a trusteeship, irrespective of whether they are blind or sighted, is: “You need to be at a point in your life when you can bring something to the table. Being a trustee requires a certain time and energy commitment.
“Most importantly there should be an organisational benefit to you being on the board. Everyone has a skill to bring to the table. If you are blind or partially sighted, your lived experience is a positive skill you can bring.”
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