Trustees/ Support Team

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Our Trustees


Toucan Diversity Training CIC is a Community Interest Company. The management committee has the overall responsibility for the strategic direction of the social enterprise and its financial overview. The committee meets twice a term and is very busy in setting up a solid infrastructure to secure the organisation for years to come.

Toucan Diversity is  actively championing the rights of disabled people and it is only fitting that we are a Disability Confident Leader. We are led by a Chair and a board and Trustees of whom have 75% a disability.

Our company is registered in England and Wales, registered number 8521048. Our registered address is: Toucan Diversity, Innovation Space, 1-2 Hampshire Terrace, Portsmouth PO12QF


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Paul Smith

Paul Smith OBE

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Position: Ambassador / Adviser

Paul Smith OBE was born in Kingswinford in November 1958, adopted 6 months later in April 1959, I emigrated to Australia with my parents where I lived for 9 years. We returned to the UK in 1968, where I grew up in a number of different towns and cities. I Joined the Royal Navy on the 8th April 1975, just 12 days after leaving school. During my career, I served in the Falklands and 1st Gulf campaign. I also represented the Royal Navy in several different sports, including the ultimate of sporting achievements, the Royal Navy Field Gun Crew. I represented Portsmouth Command Field Gun Crew (twice) at the Royal Tournament in front of Her Majesty the Queen at Earls Court.

In September 1991 my career was affected by a Road Traffic Accident. I went into lock-in/lock- down Syndrome for 12 years. The road to recovery was long and difficult, especially for my family. Then in 2006, my life took a dramatic turn for the better, when I took on my first physical challenge by pushing myself 6 miles in my NHS wheelchair to raise funds for Teenage Cancer Trust. The fundraising continued with the fantastic support of my wife, Jane, my 3 daughters and a brilliant, dedicated support crew. The challenges took off and by 2015, we had raised an amount that surpassed anything we could ever imagine. Charities I and my crew have supported are Teenage Cancer Trust, Kiya Survivors, GOSH, Centrepoint Youth Homelessness, Save the Children and 2 local children here in Portsmouth.

I live with my family in Cosham and my fundraising continues with the same, kind support. I am now a fully qualified UKA Athletics coach and am the  lead wheelchair coach at the City of Portsmouth Athletic Club (COPAC). I  also coach Physical Preparation(strength and conditioning) for all athletes at the club.

Anne-Marie Asgari

Anne-Marie Asgari 


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Position: Development Director

 I have lived, studied and worked in Germany, Switzerland, France and England. After living in Richmond for over 20 years I finally settled on the Isle of Wight. My earlier professional life was in hotel management where I held several senior positions for more than 15 years, until I had my two daughters.

My second career took me into the world of charity development for another 20 years. Recently, in 2006 I founded Me too & Co, a charity based in Richmond providing support and services for families who have children with additional needs.  I am excited to report that  Me too & Co ‘s volunteering model received the Queens Award for Voluntary Service in 2018.

The concept of setting up a social enterprise is a new and exciting venture for me. The idea of starting Toucan Diversity came about after I saw the struggle of many disabled young people trying to obtain a job as most of them were ‘shelved’. I firmly believe that they deserve better and with Toucan Diversity we hope to encourage a social change in attitudes towards disability in general.

Toucan Diversity was rewarded in 2015 a Business and Enterprise Award by the Portsmouth business community Shaping Portsmouth.  

Jude Caunter

Jude Caunter

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Position: Trustee / Adviser

My name Is Jude. I have been on the ‘mobility impaired’ scale at various stages since 1987, when I was first affected by a cavernoma bleed. However, this was initially diagnosed as ‘Transverse Myelitis’ and not diagnosed as a cavernoma until 2008. It was removed in 2009 and now I use a wheelchair.

I am a fitness instructor at the John Pounds Centre in Portsmouth. I became a fitness instructor through Aspires ‘Instructability’ programme, which is all about encouraging more disabled people to not only become more active, but even become fitness instructors themselves. Through my work as a fitness instructor, I aim to promote my belief that disabled people should be enabled to do the things they can do, rather than unnecessarily disadvantaged because of the things they can’t do. Toucan Diversity get this message out to people! I live with my partner, Jeanie and our 2 dogs.


Matt Shipp

Matt Shipp

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Position: Trustee

For the last five years I have been a student at Manchester Metropolitan University studying combined honours degree mathematics with computer music. However due to reasons linked to my disability I decided to postpone my degree and continue my studies at a university closer to home. I made this decision because it is my overall ambition to live a fully independent life.

I am looking forward to getting involved with the marketing aspect of Toucan Diversity. I hope to gain relevant experience in this field and develop my communications skills whilst being involved at board level with Toucan Diversity.

I am a very competitive person, enjoy watching cricket and rugby. In addition I love sailing and speed boat racing.

Barbara Hicks

Barbara Hicks

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Position: Trustee

I am a fully qualified teacher and taught with the old LEA in Battersea in the seventies. I spent 12 years in the US working as an editor in educational publishing. From 1997 I was involved with — and eventually ran — fully inclusive out-of-school clubs. In addition, I also worked for 10 years with ‘Crossroads Care’, caring for adults and children. I am very interested in the process of helping every person to find satisfactory work through which they can make their contribution.

Rebecca Thomas

Rebecca Thomas

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Position: Secretary

Hi, I’m Rebecca. I’m a professional copy-editor, proofreader, writer and general content wrangler with more than 20 years experience of making content accessible, inclusive and engaging. My purpose is to make important stuff easy to read. Clarity, simplicity and trust are my watchwords.

And I’ve got MS. Living with a largely invisible disability has taught me a lot and, being a communicator, I want to share it. It’s essential that more people know about diversity, accessibility and inclusion, the social model of disability, and equality (notably the Equality Act 2010). This is the important stuff. And that’s why Toucan Diversity’s work is so valuable.

A trained journalist, I worked for local weekly newspapers, then the BMA (British Medical Association), before setting up Thomas Editing in 2015. Since then I’ve provided editing services to access and inclusive design consultants, the Terrence Higgins Trust, and NHS trusts, among many others.

Paul Carter

Paul Carter

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Position: Treasurer

Paul is a Chartered Management Accountant and has worked in the financial services industry for more than 30 years developing significant technical, operational and management experience throughout his career.

Paul has extensive experience in finance, accounting and treasury management and has held senior positions in major UK companies including Zurich Insurance and RSA Insurance plc.

Currently working as a business consultant, Paul provides specialist services supporting companies implement optimal operating frameworks by reviewing and redesigning end to end processes using technology solutions where available.

With a successful track record in the design, implementation and management of business operations, organisations have benefitted from a versatile individual who can transform inefficient systems and processes and create highly effective operating frameworks.

Paul has excellent communication skills based on a personable style which ensures that his interactions with people are always constructive and positive outcomes achieved.

Paul has been a major supporter of his great-niece Annabelle, who has cerebral palsy, and has been involved in numerous events over the last 2 years which have been focused on raising sufficient funds for SDR surgery which Annabelle was fortunate enough to have had in January 2021.

Paul is now looking to develop a recruitment and consultancy business focused on supporting individuals with disabilities find jobs and support prospective employers with the services they require to create and maintain diverse and inclusive working environments for its people.

Paul is looking to work with like minded people and companies and introduced himself to Toucan Diversity Training when researching Disability Confident Leaders in the Portsmouth area and has offered his services to the organisation as a volunteer.

Rob Trent

Rob Trent

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Position: Chair

About Rob:

Rob was born with arthrogryposis, a condition affecting the joints and muscular development. From the age of 6 he attended Chailey Heritage Special School where he was taught to be as independent as possible. 

After several years of further and higher education studying Information Technology, he began working for Southampton General Hospital in 1985, and then Ordnance Survey a year later, and graduated with a B.Sc in Information Systems in 1991.

 After working full time, Rob took early retirement from Ordnance Survey in June 2018. He has been a Governor for Treloars School and College for 11 years, and a Trustee for Disability Rights UK for the past six years. In addition, he also is a Trustee for Flat Spaces, which is a charity providing accessible holiday accommodation for severely disabled people. 

Rob is the owner of AccessAdvisr, a Trip Advisor style website for disabled people. He loves going on holidays abroad with his wife Kim.  He is a vivid mouth painting artist , specialising in landscapes. In addition, he is a keen football fan of AFC Bournemouth and worked with Football Authorities to improve access for disabled people.

Click the link below to listen to a podcast interview introducing Rob…


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Rebecca Butler

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Position: Trustee / Adviser

Dr Rebecca R. Butler BA MA Ed. D

Dr Butler holds a BA in English Literature, an MA in Children’s Literature and a Doctorate in Education, all from the University of Roehampton. Her doctoral thesis was entitled MOTOR IMPAIRMENT IN CHILDREN’S LITERATURE: PERCEPTIONS AND PEDAGOGY. She can
bring the experience of her research to the board of trustees of Toucan.

She has published articles on children’s literature in many of the main literary journals.

She has worked for twenty years as a voluntary tutor in literacy. Her pupils have always achieved improved scores in reading tests, as well as enjoying reading. Her work has always been appreciated by colleagues and by parents.

Dr Butler reviews children’s books for four journals, Armadillo, Books for Keeps, the journal of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) and the journal of the School Library Association.

Dr Butler has been a speaker at conferences organised by the National Centre for Children’s Literature, IBBY and other universities.

Dr Butler is a member of the committee of the UK branch of IBBY. Every two years IBBY runs an international competition to find the world’s best books for children with disabilities. Dr Butler has twice been the IBBY executive in charge of the UK participation in the competition, dealing with authors and publishers and ensuring the correct submission of nominated books.

Dr Butler is a fulltime wheelchair user.

Photograph of Tom Silver

Tom Silver

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Position: Trustee

Tom Silver, BA

Hi, I’m Tom Silver, and I’m one of the trainers for Toucan Diversity as well as the Project Coordinator and trainer for Action-attainment, a similar social enterprise that operates in Richmond, South West London offering support services to children and young people with autism and communication needs, as well as parents and schools.

I have a degree in Outdoor Adventure Management from Solent University, which I completed in 2013 and following up from that, spent a few months working a
specialist school in London then went to do a year in France where I worked as a
tour leader and housekeeper. In 2015, I joined Action-attainment as admin support
as well as trainer giving my experiences of living with high functioning autism and
went full time as their Project Coordinator and trainer last year.

I like to keep active as much as I can, and I am very lucky to be involved in offering
sports activities to children with ASD at Action-attainment, including our weekend
football, as well as tennis, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding and golf in the
holidays. I also did a sensory training course in 2015 which I have taken into my
work and worked alongside one of our consultant Occupational Therapist offering
sensory training to schools and sensory strategies workshops to primary school
aged children.

In 2016, I also undertook a Level 4 accredited training course in well-being and mental health with Richmond Borough Mind, and I have been volunteering with them and delivering mental health workshops in schools, colleges and universities around Richmond and Kingston.

I enjoy playing tennis, running, swimming, cycling, watching rugby, reading, going to
see live music, drawing, meditation, psychology and going for long walks, and my family dogs!

I’m very interested to be getting involved as a trustee and to be gaining some experience in this field, as well as understanding more about how boards work and governance.

Support Team

Picture of Alice Quinell

Alice Quinell

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Position: Marketing Support 

Hello, my name is Alice.
I am currently a third-year student, studying English and Media Studies at Portsmouth University. I am also a marketing volunteer for Toucan Diversity, where I am involved with marketing on Toucan’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, helping to produce Toucan’s Diversity newsletter and SEO marketing. When I graduate, I aim to use the skills gained from volunteering with Toucan Diversity, to help with future job opportunities in the marketing sector. Also, I hope through volunteering with Toucan Diversity to become more disability aware with the opportunity of attending training sessions.

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Mick Walters

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Position: IT Support

I am local to Portsmouth and spent most of my working career in IT and more recently as a Church Administrator. I wanted to put my “spare” time to good use and support a worthwhile organisation while retaining some interest in the subject of IT. Toucan Diversity seems to fit the bill (no pun intended)! I have a number of friends and other contacts who suffer from one form of disability or another and so I feel strongly about the subject of discrimination. Having training provided by those with real life experience seems so much more valuable than simply providing a set of rules to be followed in order to be politically correct. As so often, real change comes about when people’s perception is changed through education and experience, not through “being talked at”.

Parissa Asgari

Parissa Asgari

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Position: Admin Support

My name is Parissa Asgari. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 12 and have struggled with the control of my sugar levels ever since. At the age of 26 I had a Stroke in my left eye causing a blind spot and then developed diabetic eye retinopathy that has left me with further visual impairments, anxiety and depression.

When my sister (the founder of Toucan Diversity) passed away in October 2020, I felt compelled to make sure her legacy continued and to fight for the cause she valued most- ensuring that everybody is viewed and dealt with equally.

I have a degree in Sociology from the University of Kent and have a special interest in Mental health. I am also a qualified mental health first aider (MHFA). Over the years I have worked various job roles that included caring, rehabilitation and volunteering for various charities.

My anxieties have made me live quite a solitary and private life. I have a big interest in nature especially ornithology and mycology. I also particularly enjoy photography, long walks, gardening and I try to live an active life when I can.

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