Tressa is a lifelong campaigner for disabled people’s human rights, devoting her career to promoting participation and inclusion for all. She was a founder member of Glasgow Disability Alliance in 2001, and five years later, was appointed CEO. She has taken the organisation from strength to strength over the past two decades, remaining true to the initial vision of combating social isolation and focusing above all, on developing and drawing on disabled people’s own strengths.
GDA is a model of grassroots community activism, a 5000+ strong, member-led organisation which works to build confidence, create connections, and enable contributions among diverse disabled people. GDA offers everything from advice on welfare rights, to support finding work, to lifelong learning & training programmes. At the same time GDA promotes equality, rights and social justice, shaping and influencing policy, services & decisions, by sharing evidence, insights & data drawn from disabled people’s lived experiences. Tressa has a particular interest in the cumulative impact of discrimination, and has led GDA to create safe & inclusive spaces for all, with networks dedicated to rights & needs of disabled people of colour, disabled women, & LGBT disabled people, as well as support tailored for every stage of peoples’ lives.
During the pandemic Tressa worked tirelessly to reorient the organisation to combat the increased isolation and marginalisation experienced by disabled people who were amongst the worst affected ensuring that GDA delivered essential food and resources to thousands as well as digital connections, wellbeing & peer support. Tressa also positioned GDA to share lived experiences of disabled people with the Social Renewal Advisory Board for Scotland and Glasgow’s Social Recovery Taskforce, striving for pandemic responses to meet needs & deliver human rights. Today, GDA is working with renewed determination so that disabled people contribute to, and benefit from actions and measures to tackle the cost of living crisis, climate justice and to build a National Care Service for Scotland.
Tressa lends her experience & expertise to a variety of other organisations, including the Wider Action Committee of New Gorbals Housing Association; Self Directed Support Scotland and the OU’s External Advisory Group. Her passion for increasing participative democracy for disabled people is put to good use in her service as advisor to Glasgow City & Scottish Government across a range of areas, embedding disabled people’s voices, priorities and direct participation in policy development & service design. She is a member of the First Minister’s National Advisory Council for Women and Girls, the National Care Service Programme Board, Depute Convenor of the Disability and Carers’ Benefits Expert Advisory Group & Co-Chair of Glasgow City’s Disability Workstream.
Tressa has an MA (Hons) in Music and Philosophy and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Glasgow, specialising in community development. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Open University in June 2022 in recognition of her commitment to Public Services including her exceptional contribution as a campaigner for equality and human rights and her tireless efforts to improve the lives of thousands of disabled people.