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UK appoints first blind ambassador to serve overseas

Victoria Harrison will become UK ambassador to Slovenia in August 2024, accompanied by her guide dog Otto.

  • Victoria Harrison will become the UK’s first totally blind ambassador, leading the UK government’s relationship with Slovenia from August 2024
  • she will be the first ambassador to be accompanied by a guide dog, her 2-year-old labrador golden retriever cross ‘Otto’
  • approximately 15% of the Foreign Office’s UK-based workforce has a declared disability, as the government department aims to become more representative of the UK

In a historic milestone for the UK Diplomatic Service, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has appointed the first totally blind British ambassador, the most senior position within a British Embassy overseas.  

Victoria Harrison, born in Dumfries, will become His Majesty’s Ambassador to Slovenia from August 2024, charged with leading the UK government’s work to promote UK interests in the country. 

Victoria also becomes the first ambassador to serve in the position with a guide dog. She will be accompanied by 2-year-old labrador golden retriever cross Otto, matched to her by British charity Guide Dogs

Following the appointment, Victoria Harrison said: 

It’s an honour to represent the UK as our next ambassador to Slovenia. During my career I’m pleased to have witnessed the Diplomatic Service become much more reflective of the diversity of the country we serve and I’m proud to be part of this change.

Thanks to Guide Dogs for providing me with my second life-changing guide dog, Otto, who will be accompanying me, and my colleagues who have supported me on this journey. I can’t wait to get started in Slovenia later this year, with Otto in tow! 

Deputy Chief Executive at Guide Dogs, Pete Osborne said: 

Victoria has had an incredible career so far and we’re thrilled that she will have her guide dog Otto by her side on this next step as the UK ambassador to Slovenia.  

It’s clear they have an extraordinary bond and have achieved remarkable things together. Our guide dogs not only help people with a vision impairment to live the life they choose but can truly change a person’s life. We wish Victoria all the very best.

Joining the UK Diplomatic Service in 1997, Victoria was the first person with a declared disability to be recruited by the Foreign Office following the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act putting into law equality for those with disabilities.

Her career has included postings to Helsinki and Sarajevo, as well as working on the Ukraine response and Afghanistan on her path to reaching the senior rank today. 

Today, approximately 15% of UK-based Foreign Office staff have a declared disability, which includes 10% of those serving in senior positions. The FCDO is committed to having a workforce which reflects the diversity of the UK.

Channel website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-office

Original article link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-appoints-first-blind-ambassador-to-serve-overseas

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