Julie has spent a lifetime as a disability rights activist. In the 1980s she was the CEO of Northern Shape, a disability arts organisation covering the entire North of England and also sat on the board of the national UK SHAPE network, helping to shape policy aimed at moving away from the 'medical' model of disability to the 'social' model. This involved working with a wide range of partners including government departments, NGOs, advocacy organisations, education, health and social care sectors.
She later established a social enterprise that provided inclusive education and training opportunities for people with disabilities within mainstream society, developing best practice accreditation as part of a European lifelong learning initiative and running major projects as part of European Year of Disabled People. In the 1990s she studied with European peers at the University of Hertfordshire, taking a diploma course aimed at implementing new equality legislation to open up access to employment for people with disabilities.
Julie has been in high demand as a disability arts practitioner-trainer, developing inspiring programmes for various education, health and civil society organisations across the UK and beyond. She was awarded an Arts Council England bursary to research Very Special Arts in the USA and she has a Masters in Education and International Development from Newcastle University. She is a prestigious Churchill Fellow which has enabled her to travel and make presentations about her inclusive practice in Australia, Canada, USA, Brazil, various countries in Europe and also in South Korea where she was invited to attend a UNESCO Arts in Education conference to talk about grass-roots approaches to inclusion.
She has experience of working across a wide spectrum of different abilities/disabilities, establishing one of the first integrated Physically Disabled and Abled-Bodied Youth Theatres in the UK in Manchester, working with children with profound disabilities in the city of Hull, supporting the People's Parliament for people with Learning Disabilities in Durham and developing publications for special needs schools in Leeds. She has developed film projects with blind and partially sighted people and learnt British Sign Language in order to work with deaf communities. She uses participative approaches to include people with disabilities in policy discussion, inspired by the work of the acclaimed Brazilian Legislative Theatre practitioner, Augusto Boal.
She is an active member of the EP Intergroup on Disability - 'Nothing About Us Without Us ' and co-founded the Children's Rights Intergroup with a view to advocating for the rights of children with disabilities.