Dr Hazel McFarlane

Disability Researcher and Activist

Hazel McFarlane has combined her tenacity with her own lived experience to consistently campaign for change in our society.

From an early age Hazel rejected the barriers placed on her as a partially sighted person. Aged five years old she refused to attend a school for blind children, joining her twin sister at the local primary school instead. At university she set up Student Vision Scotland, an organisation for vision impaired students to challenge attitudes and lobby for equal access to education.

Throughout Hazel’s career she has worked to promote social inclusion of disabled people. She has trained numerous healthcare professionals, influenced how services from health to housing have been developed and has co-authored various publications with academics from around the world. Hazel has also worked with the Scottish Government to inform legislation affecting those with sensory impairment.

Hazel experienced total sight loss in 2007. She was shocked at the lack of support services. Her own research found that suicide rates were high for many older people experiencing sight loss. Hazel wrote a proposal for a Vision Support Service, which immediately got the support of Scotland’s Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). The Ayrshire Eye Clinic Support Service was launched in 2010, funded by RNIB Scotland, three local authorities and NHS Ayrshire & Arran. The model was adopted by RNIB and rolled out throughout the UK with Hazel as their poster girl, pictured running with her guide runner. This service has helped countless people adjusting to sight loss.

An avid runner, Hazel inspired members of her running club, the Troon Tortoises, to become guide runners. She has competed in numerous marathons and ultra marathons, raising over £9,000 for Blind Sports UK.

“If You believe in yourself, then you can do and achieve absolutely anything.”