Founder - Legacy page
Madissa Asgari MA, BA (Hons)
Madissa’s Legacy Fund
Toucan Diversity’s founder and principal trainer, Madissa died on 16 October 2020. Her death was unexpected and a great shock, as she was thought to be recovering after a long illness. She’s left such a hole in all our lives and we miss her terribly. Madissa’s courage inspires us to never give up. She taught us that we must always fight hard for change.
Madissa was everyone’s guiding star. All lucky enough to have met her will know what a positive impact she had; a gentle, thoughtful woman, driven to fight social injustice.
Madissa set up Toucan Diversity as a social enterprise and was its principal trainer. She believed people needed first-hand experience to deliver training to create a social impact.
Madissa Asgari was born in London in 1986. Her mother, Anne-Marie, is German and her father was Persian.
Madissa had a multilingual, multi-cultural upbringing, with a German mum and Persian dad. She also had spina bifida and was a wheelchair user. So, she was very aware of the range of existing cultural and religious attitudes towards disability.
In 2004, 18-year-old Madissa wrote ‘Timeband’, a children’s book that challenges the negative depictions of disability within children’s literature. Young readers can see that the story’s main character is disabled but it’s never mentioned in the text; she’s judged by her character, not her disability. Timeband was published by national charity Whizz-Kidz, and distributed at schools.
Madissa went on to study Languages and European studies at Portsmouth University. This included a year at the Marburg University in Germany, which gave her an insight into how disabled students were treated in different countries.
She found that although Germany had better medical services in place for students, Portsmouth University did more to ensure that its students were independent and included within university life.
Having obtained a BA Hons at Portsmouth, Madissa went on to take a Masters in European Studies and International Relations. Disability in society was the subject of her dissertations at both academic levels. For Madissa, promoting the social model of disability to improve the lives of disabled people was paramount.
Reaction to discrimination
Madissa experienced disability discrimination when applying for jobs and this made made her even more determined to set up Toucan Diversity Training, not just for herself but also to create job opportunities for other disabled people.
Madissa established Toucan as a social enterprise in November 2013, with herself as principal trainer and operations manager.
She was already a member of the Portsmouth Disability Forum, which campaigns to improve local facilities and services for disabled people in the Portsmouth area.
Madissa was an associated member of the Institute of Equality and Diversity Practitioners (IEDP) and completed a TQUK level 3 course in Education and Training. She was also, from 2012, a member of the Portsmouth Disability Forum, which campaigns to improve local facilities and services for disabled people in the Portsmouth area.
Before getting ill, Madissa was working on a TED talk and planning to expand the training portal for Toucan Diversity.
At Toucan, we are committed to providing essential disability equality training for any business, enterprise or organisation with staff, volunteers or students.