Keeping in touch with your local community.

Interview with Penny on Talking Newspapers

Talking newspapers bring the news, articles and, in my case, interviews to their local communities.  You don’t have to be visually impaired to be able to get this service – it is available to anyone.  Nowadays, the spoken word is delivered on a memory stick – just plug-in and play on very easy-to-use players with a few straightforward buttons.

I was whisked away to a small stone building in the car park of adjacent village, Stubbington, for an interview about Baking Blind and the Holman prize with the Fareport Talking News (  In a tiny studio not much bigger than the average utility room, Suzie the volunteer technician and Carl who leads this local initiative, tested me for sound levels and put me through my paces.

They’ll offer the interview to the other local talking newspaper groups and even colleagues across the national Federation of Talking News (  There’s even a chance it may get to the British Wireless for the Blind ( that will loan sophisticated radios with internet facilities which give access to international programmes.

If you know someone who wants to keep in touch with what is happening locally but can’t manage the papers, this might be the answer.  There’s almost certainly a similar service close by so call the Federation on 01793 497555 and, for Fareport Talking News, Carl Cater on 01329 664364.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube


Baking Blind at the Beeb.

Tiramisu was on the menu for my brief BBC Radio 4 “In Touch” outing this week.

I needed something very simple to prepare: not too many ingredients or equipment to carry on the train up to Broadcasting House in London.  Shiny rectangular dish holding the tiramisu - the brown soaked sponge fingers layered with white cream and dusted with the dark brown cocoa

I ended up in the Studio Managers’ canteen and lunch area, whipping the cream and mascarpone on a draining board with the fantastic help of presenter Peter White’s granddaughter (on work experience).  She managed to juggle the half-finished pudding and me back to the studio – no mean feat through the absolute maze of corridors.

In the world of visual impairment   paths tend to cross and I’ve met Peter a few times over the years – and he was courteous enough to suggest he remembered.

Decked out in those great big headphones which make one feel a bit like Mickey Mouse, I was able to hear all the other contributors to the programme while I tried, as quietly as possible, to finish off the tiramisu: dusting with cocoa powder through a sieve and trying not to spread it on to the studio equipment.

It was a fascinating experience: Peter reading from his Braille script with a whole bevy of other visually impaired people both making and contributing to the programme.   A great chance to get our voices heard.

The very simple recipe for the tiramisu is at .

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

100 years of the Women’s Royal Naval Service at Greenwich.

Those wonderful buildings at the Old royal Naval College were home to me.    Back in the early 1980s, I was there for three months on the Lieutenants’ Greenwich Course.  We had all our meals at long tables running the length of the fabulous Painted Hall, parties in the Cellars and a ball amidst the colonnades.  And, in later years, I returned regularly as a naval barrister for conferences and formal dinners as the College was also the base of the Chief Naval Judge Advocate.

This year the College is commemorating all those women who trained and worked there since the First World War – hundreds of black high heels pattered over the stonework.   I was honoured to provide some of my own memories and images.

The free exhibition is now on: exploring the huge breadth of roles undertaken by women.  It has been a long journey from basic administration roles to commanding ships at sea.

The WRNS was a microcosm of the increasing emancipation of women in broader society during the century.  We are making progress but not there yet!

Details for visitors:

The Visitor Centre,
Old Royal Naval College,

Opening Dates & Times:

Friday 7 July to Sunday 3 December 2017; Daily, 10am to 5pm

Entry free

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube


Blind leading the blind in the Kitchen.

Nearly bloody Jam – not enough for a massacre but it could have been messy!  I had a new blind-leading-the-blind experience cooking alongside Madeline who also has limited sight but, together, we made her jam recipe.  It is especially simple as it doesn’t rely on checking temperatures.

Like me, she prefers using short knives in the kitchen because it is easier for us to feel what we are chopping.  And, of course, because I was showing off, I immediately nicked a finger.  Luckily for us, videographer toby spotted the blood and we could save the rest of the rhubarb.  The other piece of essential equipment is an always-to-hand dispenser of sticking plaster!

If you’ve not heard two people chatting about how they find life with blindness, this  is one to watch.

Following her success working within the NHS, Madeline is just about to launch her new business (, specialising in gathering the real human stories that bring drier academic research to life.  She has a talent for “Discovery” interviews that have mainly been used in the retail trade but are going to be equally influential for many of the public services that we all use and need.  And, using her experience having a guide dog, she’s spent her spare time developing a unique dog-walker’s bag that should appeal to anyone with a hound: from the lovable pet to the working dogs of the police and others.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

15 million people at risk of exclusion if Government, the voluntary sector and business rely on the internet.

Flowers held together with a basket weave of leaves

Penny’s latest flower arrangement

You’ll need to use multiple communication channels to be successful, whatever products or services you want to deliver.

According to the recent Good Things Foundation report (, nearly 1 in 3 adults in the UK (29.2%, 15.2 million people) either don’t use the internet at all (7.8 million people) or have only limited use. (7.4 million people)

This means that all sorts of activities (shopping, banking, looking for energy deals, applying for jobs, getting information and much more) is not reaching nearly a third of the adult population if those activities rely on the internet.

Imagine running a business but excluding 30% of your customers – it might not last long!



  • Of the non-users, the majority are aged over 65 (some 5 million people but this still leaves 2.8 million adults of working age who are not using the internet.
  • Of the limited users, 62.7% are aged under 65 – some 4.6 million people.

So what?   If you are trying to target your products or services at working age people, want to collect tax from them or help them get back to work, relying on the internet is likely to miss about 7.4 million people.

Low income.

  • Most none users (62.3%) are in households with an annual income of under £17,500 – some 4.9 million people.
  • A Smaller proportion of limited users (41%)   are in households below this income level – some 3.1 million people.

So what?  If you are trying to target your services at disadvantaged people, provide tax or pension credits, other benefits, or provide social housing, relying on the internet is likely to miss about 8 million people in most need.

Disability and long-term health conditions. 

  • Nearly half (47%) of non-users have an impairment or long-term health issue – some 3.7 million people.
  • The proportion was the same (47%) of limited users – some 3.5 million people.

So what?  If you are trying to target your health,  care  or back-to-work services at disabled people, provide disability-specific benefits and support , , relying on the internet is likely to miss  about 7.2 million people already facing the most life challenges.

Social class and leaving school early were also other significant factors – and each brings their own additional difficulties.

What’s the message?

We all know about the legal duties concerning disabled people: accessible websites and information, alternate formats etc.      But good communications with the public still needs to use the full range of classic media – from newspapers and radio to TV and leaflets – if large parts of the population aren’t missed out.   The internet may be relatively easy and cheap but still doesn’t reach everyone and this data proves it.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

Washington Post celebrates UK’s winning Baking blind

Good afternoon,

I was interviewed by the WP – their feature about me and the other two winners of the world-wide Holman prize is at

Press release, video and more information at

Best wishes


Tel: +44 (0)1329 841814