About Spokz People

The Language We Use

Spokz People follows the social model of disability so we use the terms disabled/disabled people. This is to recognise that people are disabled by the difficulties of living in a society which does not accommodate disabled people. We use impairment to refer to an individual’s medical condition. Confusingly, these terms are often used interchangeably by many people.

We recognise individuals’ right to use language that they feel most comfortable with. If you prefer different words, we invite you to replace our chosen words with the ones that you prefer as you read our website.

Language is always changing so we have regular meetings to discuss which language best reflects our values. As with everything on our website, we are open to your feedback, so please get in touch if you have any thoughts on this.

About Spokz People

We set up Spokz People in 2009 and have since supported more than 280 disabled people and families. When we collected data a few years ago, 72% of people said they benefitted from our services. We are a Social Enterprise, a Community Interest Company, and a founding member of Kandu, a network of ethical disability organisations, as well as the non-profit arm of Spokz, a provider of wheelchairs, sports accessories and lifestyle equipment. We are insured with Holistic Insurance Services (number HIS20190) and are organisational members of the National Counselling Society (number NCS22-00789).

Why we started Spokz People

In 2006 Mel and Steve met. Through Steve’s work running Spokz, an online disability equipment supplier, we discovered there was a lot of attention on physical rehabilitation in the UK, but very little on the impact of living with disability every day, on wellbeing and mental health for disabled people and families. We decided to change that. We discovered how few psychological therapists are disability affirmative or have any understanding of the daily experience of living with disability and difference. Mel trained as a counsellor and went on to specialise in disability, and after that, trauma when it became clear that there are many ways trauma co-exists with disability. We also discovered that many disabled people would prefer to speak to a therapist with disability knowledge and experience. After several years we had a long waiting list for our support. We also knew that many disabled people struggled to use our 1-2-1 support services because of finances or issues getting to venues. We put out a survey and 83% of the respondents said they would benefit from a tailor-made community focussing on mental health and wellbeing when living with disability. So, in 2021, funded by the lottery, we launched our online wellbeing community and programme.

Our aim is to create lasting change, for you and your family, but also for the wider disability community. As we discuss in our wellbeing programme, there are many ways to increase self-esteem by reducing the impact of prejudice against disabled people. Forming communities of disabled people, their families and non-disabled allies is key to working towards collective action for positive change in the future.

Addressing isolation is Key

Isolation is a killer. It increases the risk of death by 29%. It carries the same risk of death as obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

That’s quite some statement and is backed by research. It reflects our own personal experiences: we have also experienced isolation, particularly during Covid-19. It’s also our experience, and perhaps yours, that you can feel lonely and isolated, even if there are people around you, because no one ‘gets’ living with disability so we feel silenced and unheard. And emotions bottle up and get stuck and in the long-term damage us physically and mentally. Reducing isolation is one of the key reasons for setting up this community.

Steve: ” Being disabled was my first experience of being different and I was disabled for a long time before setting up Spokz. I felt there were lots of able-bodied people selling disabled people disability equipment and whilst they were good people, there’s no substitute for first-hand experience: you wouldn’t hire an electrician to plaster your walls! I set up the business because I wanted to make a living in a way that fitted around being disabled. I discovered I was advising and mentoring many customers, not just selling them wheelchair tyres and inner tubes, so there was a need for the support we have here. I have been a mentor through other charities as well as an independent living adviser in the past and wanted to share my experiences to help others navigate similar experiences.”

Mel: “Throughout my life, before I had any experience of disability, I had many experiences of difference and being a minority. My parents moved our family from the UK to a different country where I didn’t speak the language when I was 10. I went to a school where no English was spoken, I was physically different from my peers as well as being from a religious and cultural minority. One grandfather was blind and another Black and as I trained as a therapist I came to see how all of these minority experiences affected my parents and filtered down through to their interactions and messages with me and my siblings. The associated stigma of being the partner, child or family member of a disabled person also runs deep in our society.”

Meet our team

We thought it would be helpful to include a few pictures and short bios so you can see who we are and why we are here:

Suzanne Latre

Managing Director

As a neurodiverse woman, I’ve faced the lifelong challenge of finding my place in society. This journey has fueled my commitment to working alongside other marginalized individuals like myself. In my role as Head of Legal and PR at Nurture the Children International UK, I’ve contributed to mental health support programs and educational initiatives, striving for a happier and fairer society. I’ve also dedicated my debut novel to empowering minority groups. I have been a Goodera ambassador, enlightening corporate volunteers from companies like Deloitte and Apple around the issues of disability and poverty. I aim to lead Spokz People, expanding our services to reach and support more people and become a nationally recognised service.

Mel Halacre

Clinical Director, Supervisor & Therapist (MBACP Accred)

“My partner, Steve, has a physical impairment (spinal injury) which affects us all as a family. I experience associated stigma as the partner of a disabled person and have experienced childhood difference and trauma due to being from a religious and cultural minority. Impairment and disability are complex things. It’s as much about relationships and identity as it is dealing with healthcare professionals, members of the public, and so much more. Talking is one of the best cures for stress, isolation, fatigue, even for pain and trauma. If you can find a way to use the support you already have around you, it can really help your wellbeing and change your life.”

Mel is a qualified HE level 5 therapist and a registered and accredited member of BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy – currently on hold as I am not working 1-2-1 with clients right now), meaning that we all follow their ethical framework. She has additional training in trauma (EMDR and Rewind), working online and disability. She is insured, has regular supervision and an enhanced DBS check. Click here to check my DBS number Number: 001458035020; surname Halacre; Date of Birth 18/05/1978, Organisation: Spokz People.

Steve Dent

Director and Chairman

“I’ve had a spinal injury for over 30 years now and have worked as both a group leader and mentor. I set up our sister company Spokz in 2008, selling wheelchairs, accessories and sporting goods and came into contact with so many people who needed more than just wheelchairs and equipment in their life. Since my partner, Mel, was already a qualified therapist, I suggested she set up the non-profit services of Spokz People to provide a more holistic approach to helping people cope with being disabled.”

Mark Pengelly

Group Facilitator

I have a progressive neurological condition since birth known as Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, or HSP, and I use a wheelchair part time. Growing up, I simply couldn’t accept the label of ‘disabled’, so started a war with my condition and legs.  I found my Superman Cape to prove to the world how amazing I was, trying to hide my impairment. At 40 I had a breakdown and possibly for the first time in my life, asked for help. I checked into a Rehabilitation Centre: “Hi, my name is Mark and I am an addict.” Recovery has given me a new life.  It has been hard work, and I continue to look at myself.  In 2023 I became a qualified counsellor.  I am keen to learn and grow and help educate other therapists in the future.

Katy Evans

Director, Trainer, Marketing & Social Media Support

“I’ve been disabled since birth and experienced many adversities in childhood. I’ve had some amazing support from therapists who understand the challenges disability can bring without viewing disability as a tragedy. I have also experienced difficulties accessing other mental health support which has inspired me to do a MSc in Mad Studies: a survivor-led approach to changing attitudes and support for people experiencing emotional distress. I believe emotional distress is over medicalised. I instead view distress as an understandable reaction to what has or is happening in someone’s life. I trained as a counsellor up to level 4 and have worked with numerous disability organisations as a campaigner and advocate. Due to personally experiencing barriers to accessing appropriate mental health support, I am passionate about working with Spokz People to improve this for other disabled people.”

Kimberley Pett

Director, Volunteer Member Liaison & Editor

“I have a number of chronic conditions and am a wheelchair user. In order to manage my constantly changing health without my mental health suffering, I need support from people who really understand my situation, and do not feel that the medical professionals or others around me are often able to provide this. Learning new strategies to support my mental wellbeing has been helpful to me throughout this journey. That’s why I think a service such as Spokz People is so important and I’m really excited to be part of it.”

Mel Nelson

IT Support

I have a T4 Spinal Cord Injury due to a Car Accident in 1985. I have B.Sc.(Hons) in Chemistry (1996) from Newcastle University and M.Sc. in Computing Science (1997) from Northumbria University. I have been married twice. My first wife was an OT from Hexham Hospital where I was when I had my accident. She later died of cancer in 1996.  I have been married to my second wife Amanda for 25 years and we have a 14 year old son. I have worked within the IT industry for myself since 2000 and Web Design since 2010. I run my own company Nelson Web Design. I enjoy going to watch my local football team Newcastle United and I have had a Season Ticket for them since 1996.

Lee Morrison


Lee has a spinal cord injury of 30+ years and has been one of our directors for 5 years, working closely with both Spokz People CIC and Spokz Ltd.

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Volunteer Team

Marketing & PR, Fundraising, Grant writing, IT development

We have a number of volunteers assisting us with the behind-the-scenes work, some disabled, some non-disabled. Most are generally supporting us as part of their final year projects at university. Currently we are working with Martina, Arvind and Tom. Some stay with us a few months and others longer. If they join us more permanently, we will add their bios here. But collectively we are thankful for the hours of support, however small they offer, to help keep Spokz People running.

Purple Therapy

Most of us know the term ‘Purple Pound’ – the spending power of disabled people, which recognises their contribution to the economic cycle in society. The ‘Purple Pound’ also recognises the growing demand for services that meet their needs and, as our population ages, this will only grow.

Unfortunately, at present, studies show that therapeutic support often fails to meet the needs of disabled people. Many clients report feeling as oppressed and not listened to in therapy, as they are in society. Some examples of this are when therapists see their anger as denial of impairment, or when therapists express disbelief at the refusal to have medical treatment to improve impairment. Many clients report paying for therapy whilst educating the therapist about what being disabled is like, or putting up with poor therapy because that therapist was the only one with an accessible office.

How Purple Therapy differs: Our values

Purple Therapy is about using our knowledge of disability to empower disabled people, by recognising that there are many forces at work in society which aim to reduce their control and power, including, unfortunately, some health and social care processes and systems.

We respect that clients have many skills and are the expert, not we, at their lives. Our role is to help hone or bring out those skills.

We collaborate and plan sessions together, review regularly and work outside the usual boundaries if necessary so clients can make progress (for example, in 1-2-1 therapy we would consider adjusting boundaries such as session timing, location, touch and personal disclosure).

We work holistically. We draw on coaching, psychoeducation, self-disclosure, advocacy and body, trauma and touch therapy when appropriate.

We spend more time in self-reflection. As disability affirming therapists, we explore our own relationship, bias and prejudices towards impairment and disability and how this can impact on client work. Disability is usually seen as a medical issue on therapy training courses, rarely is it seen as a societal and political issue. This, in our view, is one of the key reasons for the negative therapy experiences many clients report.