Life experiences led Su Peace to her dream career, working in the highly specialised area of disability access, carrying out risk assessments in buildings and discussing ways that people with disabilities could escape in an emergency.

Her expertise in the profession has seen her work on some of the country's most prestigious buildings, from the Millennium Dome to the Scottish Parliament Buildings and Welsh Assembly. And she laughs when she recalls meeting her second husband while designing toilets for the British Museum!

Su has contributed to specialist manuals on the subject. Her book about means of escape for people with disabilities is due out next year - and she owes it all to her family.

Her grandfathers were her inspiration. Both had disabilities; one lost an eye through glaucoma, the other a leg to diabetes.

"One grandfather was a stonemason. He was involved in a lot of the buildings in Bradford," says Su.

His advice sparked Su's interest in buildings and structures. "I remember him saying when I was a little girl to look up because that is where the beauty of buildings is," she recalls.

Back then access for disabled people wasn't as stringent as it is now. Su's "injustice" at her grandfathers struggling to take her into those buildings because of their disabilities, and the impact of losing friends in the Bradford City fire, led to a career helping others. She has become a champion for the cause, lobbying Westminster to improve regulations and legislation for the disabled.

"We've come a long way but there's still a long way to go," she says.

You could say the same about her career. At 51, when many are looking at winding down to a relaxing retirement, Su says her journey has just begun.

Since starting her working life as a nurse and then an access officer with the Bradford Access Group - now Bradford Access Action - Su has shown how determination can lead to great achievements.

The job advert for her first access officer post requested a graduate. "They wanted someone with a degree but I thought I'd try anyway because it was a job I wanted," says Su. "They gave me the job and, after that, I never looked back."

She spent three years with the organisation then lived in Australia working on a government project on inclusion of people with disabilities in sport and recreation. She also did counselling and worked with under-privileged children.

A marriage breakdown prompted her return to Britain where she set about building a new life. She took voluntary work with Bradford Access Action and spent six years with Leeds Council looking at access issues as part of its city re-development scheme.

Head-hunted by building engineers Burohappold, Su worked in their fire, engineering and risk assessment team, which led to her working on some of the country's most prestigious buildings. She helped set up a consultancy but a spinal injury in a car accident in 1992 forced her to think about her future.

"I couldn't walk for a while. I called it experiential learning," says Su. "That's when I decided to set up my own business, Q Equality, because I didn't know whether I'd work full-time again."

She launched the business in 2002, the same year she fulfilled an ambition for property developing. Su currently has six homes she rents out as a long-term pension plan.

The principles she used to get her life back on track following her marriage breakdown and spinal injury are the basis for a training course she's launched to empower women. She's currently running trial sessions for the Special Woman Club at Bradford's Central Library.

Su says the club aims to give women the confidence to fulfill their ambitions in life. She's climbed mountains since conquering her fear of heights - "I went to Blackpool Tower and the Eiffel Tower to conquer it and ended up climbing a mountain in Nepal!".

"It's getting women to see they are special and once you have that you can be more powerful. Do not have negative thoughts or hold on to the past; don't be critical. Those are the type of changes you can make," explains Su.

The mother-of-three also advocates devoting a few minutes each day to yourself. "I get up and walk the dogs. I live in Queensbury and I stop and look at the view and tell myself how lucky I am.

"I'm 51 and a lot of my friends are starting to slow down. I feel I'm at the beginning of my journey."

  • For information on courses relating to disability access contact Salford University on (0161) 2954545.