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Meet the team

Team Isle Access


Our Patron. Laura Curwood

My name is Laura Curwood and I have the privilege of being the Isle of Wight’s first ever para triathlete and Patron for Isle Access! Before I became a chair user I was a keen cyclist and after being introduced to para friendly cycling by Isle Access, I fell in love with it all over again. Ultimately, I hope to use my ambassador status to create a sporting event on the Island that is exclusive to athletes with various disabilities.

Bernadette Hillewaert (Chair)

Bernie moved to the UK after obtaining her Masters degree in English and German from the University of Leuven in the early 1980s , Belgium. She has worked primarily within a sales and marketing environment in International Relocation for the past 35 years and has travelled for business extensively during her career. At the end of 2015 she semi-retired from the Board at her last employer, to pursue a long-held ambition to volunteer within the community. Having retrained as a complementary therapist over the last ten years, she has volunteered with homeless charities and currently volunteers at the local hospice. Bernie suffers from chronic hearing loss, and fully understands the challenges that unseen disabilities can create. Her career in a sales environment means she will always look for solutions and having spent 5 years on the board of a multinational business will bring valuable experience to the Board of trustees.


Karen Turner (Deputy Chair and Fundraising/Events)

Until her retirement due to ill health in 2014, Karen was a senior nurse on the Island with 34 years experience. She holds a Masters degree in Advanced Professional Development. As an Island resident she has an interest in the health and well being of other Island residents and volunteers as part of the enter and view team with Health Watch IOW. Karen brings both her considerable professional knowledge, and her experiences as a person living with a disability, with her to Isle Access.

Karen’s role in Isle access’s success is to develop policies and procedures that, not only ensures safety and compliance, but also offers opportunities to people who have access needs. She has provided the extensive research and proposal for our new venture, The Dining Car café.


Sara O Mahoney (Company Secretary and Treasurer)

Sara brings senior business management experience encompassing commercial and financial management including business start-ups, business plans, budgeting and forecasting, preparation and presentation of accounts. Development and implementation of business strategies (re-branding, repositioning, training, centralisation of operations, change management) within service industries including restaurants (forte restaurants group), airline retail and accommodation hospitality. Sara has maximised business processes and performance whilst driving efficiencies and savings delivering an increase of £750,000 in profit to one business.

Sara has a HNC in Business and Finance, CIMA Managerial, Google Digital Marketing Certification, as well as training certification in employment law, conflict resolution, 5s Lean Principles.

In Sara’s consultancy she has worked with pre- schools working in a not for profit status and understands the importance of close management of costs and fundraising activity. This coupled with her experience of a family member who has Asperger’s and her own recent physical restrictions with arthritis Sara has joined Isle Access to help with the business process and finances.


Jonathon Giemza-Pipe

Jonathon and his family moved to Ryde, I.O.W, Boxing Day 2011 to build a new life and can frequently be spotted cutting about Ryde using his purple hand-bike wheelchair, with his Canine Partner by his side.
As a former Army Officer, Jonathon was injured during his last operational tour in Iraq, and despite the efforts of both his family and staff at both the rehabilitation unit in Headley Court, and various NHS hospitals, Jonathon was medically discharged from the job he loved after 22 years, serving in the British Army’s Royal Artillery. Due to the nature of his injuries which affected his spine and hips and caused chronic pain, he now needs a wheelchair for mobility.
Jonathon is a vociferous advocate for giving access to all, irrespective of need, in particular sharing information, so that those lucky enough to live here and those visiting, can make an informed choice of how to best enjoy our beautiful Isle of Wight. He is a massive supporter of the ethos that not all disabilities are visible.
Jonathon is married to Danusia, and between them they attempt to wrangle their three children as they navigate their new lives. Since his injury Jonathon has moved from more team sports, to archery, and was lucky enough to be selected to take part in the INVICTUS games in Orlando, 2016. Jonathon is an Ambassador for Help for Heroes, and a keen supporter and beneficiary of Canine Partners.

Pam Willingham (Fundraising)

Pam had poor sight when she was a child and through her school years she was left with little or no sight so learnt Braille and worked for her O and A levels.  After a period of working for companies in London, Pam started a family. Pam went back to University and obtained a diploma in counselling at Southampton University and worked as a psychotherapist, specialising in counselling people who had newly lost their sight. Pam progressed to be an Eye Clinic Liaison Officer at Birmingham University working at St. Mary’s in the eye department.

Pam also brings a wealth of volunteering experience as a volunteer for the guide Dogs Association, helping with fund raising and completing guide dog awareness training courses.  Pam has also worked for some time with Samaritans and helps run a social group for visually impaired people in Ryde.

Pam is totally blind with no light perception but believes that technology is brilliant for giving her independence (when it works!).



Magic is Pam’s guide dog, attending all our meetings and is always listed as an attendee. He is very patient and never says a word out of place.


Jan Brookes (CEO)

Jan has had a notable career of over 40 years in nursing including holding a short service commission as a nursing officer in the RAF. She has considerable experience of caring for people with disabilities and poor mobility, and latterly worked in care home management. For a short period Jan also operated an ‘Accessible Travel’ franchise, on the Isle of Wight, inspecting and booking hotel accommodation away from the Island, for people with disabilities. In 2015, Jan succeeded in gaining an MSc (distinction) in International Hospitality Management. The topic for her dissertation was “Identifying the needs of people with dementia when using hotels’. She is a member of the Access Association and has undertaken training in access auditing at the Centre for Accessible Environments. In 2016 Jan spoke at Bournemouth University’s Festival of Learning week, and was voted runner up in the Age Friendly Island awards for Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2018 she spoke at the AGM of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport. Jan also has a number of impairments.

As part of Isle Access’s organisational strategy, Jan is facilitating customer advisory groups for Red Funnel and Hovertravel and their customers with access needs, as well as providing a consultancy service for advice for businesses. Jan is an enthusiastic agent of change and demonstrates a flexible, open attitude to new ideas. She has participated in workshops for organisations, including BSI Standards.