Our Founder and President is Baroness Masham of Ilton, herself spinal cord injured at T5 following a riding accident in 1958 when she was 21.
Baroness Masham of Ilton is an active member of the House of Lords. She has a particular concern in issues surrounding health and disability and, as well as being Founder and President of SIA, is Vice President of The Patients Association, a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, and Chair of the Cross Party Health Group and Patient and Public Involvement in Health Group.
Everyone who knows her can vouch for Lady Masham's passion in all matters relating to disability and, in particular, spinal cord injury. When she founded SIA in 1974, her primary concern was the lack of specialist medical care available to all newly injured people, and the dirth of information and advice available to SCI people once they had been discharged from hospital.
Out of these twin concerns, the Spinal Injuries Association was born. Looking back over the past 35 years of SIA's history, Lady Masham says:
'When I went to live in Yorkshire after my accident, it became evident to me that much had to be improved for people living with spinal cord injury in the community. In 1970 I became a Life Peer in the House of Lords and several disabled Peers and myself made our maiden speeches on disability in Alf Morris's Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Bill.
I came across several paraplegics and tetraplegics who were being treated in general hospitals with disastrous results, such as sustaining terrible pressure sores and depression. Many aspects of life, such as access, housing, education and employment as well as accessing general information and support needed addressing. I came to the conclusion that, as spinal cord injury is such a specialised condition, it needed an association to support people. With the help of some colleagues and Lady Hamilton, who had pioneered the Disabled Living Foundation, SIA was launched in 1974.
It seems hardly possible that from such a small beginning we have grown to be the enthusiastic professional organisation that we are today. Over the past 35 years, we have addressed, head on, many of the crucial issues which faced spinal cord injured people back in 1974. SIA has been at the forefront of many campaigns which have had a significant and lasting effect on the lives of spinal cord injured people. We were at the front of the campaign to introduce Direct Payments and chaired the Rights Now! campaign which ultimately led to the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act.
However, our work never stops. Although medical care has improved, and legislation has eased the life of many, there are still many concerns - for example, the threat to our specialist Spinal Cord Injury Centres. SIA has an unrivalled reputation for successful campaigning and we will continue to use our skills to ensure the best possible outcomes for spinal cord injured people'.