Neil Heslop OBE

Leonard Cheshire

In 2016 Neil became the first disabled CEO of Leonard Cheshire, whose 5,000 staff and 10,000 volunteers support 50,000 people with disabilities in 15 countries with an annual budget of more than £150 million. Neil has had a distinguished career in business and the third sector, advising the UK Government on the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act in the 1990s.

Neil became blind age 20 at university due to a degenerative condition. Despite graduating with a law degree, he initially found it difficult to find work as employers were wary of his disability. Along with two visually impaired friends he founded the charity Blind in Business to support blind and partially sighted young people into work, serving as a trustee for 26 years.

In 1992 Neil gained an MBA at Cranfield School of Management, becoming the first blind graduate from a top business school, and went on to hold senior executive leadership roles in the US and UK telecoms industry. These included CEO of Cincinnati Bell Wireless, with P&L responsibility as part of a $1.6 billion telecoms group on the New York stock exchange, and Head of Strategy for O2. In 2002 he was awarded an OBE for services to British telecommunications and charity.

In 2013 Neil combined his knowledge of the business and disability sectors and joined RNIB as a managing director. He oversaw the quadrupling of business income to more than £8 million, and revitalised the charity’s Talking Book service, making it free to visually impaired users and growing its customer base by more than 50%.

Neil is co-chair of the Disability Charities Consortium, a group of the ten largest UK disability charities which promotes the rights and interests of disabled people.

“At a time of unprecedented change we all must work tirelessly in all sectors to inspire the positive change required to achieve equality of opportunity for people with disability.”