Victoria Nelson image

The founder of the UK’s first sign language counselling service, Deaf4Deaf, has won the top prize at the Stelios Awards for Disabled Entrepreneurs in London.

Victoria Nelson, who founded Deaf4Deaf in 2016, was presented with the top prize of £30,000 funding from easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou at the national awards, run by Stelios Philanthropic Foundation and Leonard Cheshire on the 22nd of October.

Victoria assembled a large team of sign language therapists who provide mental health counselling to deaf people all over the UK and Ireland. The team, who are based around the country, offer sessions in person or via video call.

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On winning the award, Victoria said: “Winning this award is beyond my wildest dreams.

“As a young girl who wanted to belong and immerse into society freely and without limits, I realised quite early on, there are many barriers, lack of incidental and direct learning, struggles in all areas of life, so the determination began.

“This award is for the whole of the D4D team. Together we can make changes, we can work together to effect a community, we can empower one another, by remembering Socrates’ words ‘the secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but by building on the new.

“We are all in it together, to build a more healthier minded deaf community that can fit more freely in society at large. Let’s continue to break down the walls of silence.”

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou commented: “Congratulations to the entrepreneur Victoria Nelson and her business Deaf 4 Deaf for becoming the overall winner this year!

“Victoria Nelson shows how her own experience of disability gave her a solution to help support so many other people in the Deaf community with a sustainable business model. We look forward to seeing her expanding her business further in the future.

“We started this award over twelve years ago and it has been amazing the variety, passion and exceptional determination people have shown. Thank you to everyone who applied- you are all winners and keep applying next year!”

A record 88 candidates applied for the awards this year, a 10 percent rise from last year.

The awards, jointly run by the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation and Leonard Cheshire, first opened in 2006. They recognise the achievements of disabled entrepreneurs in the UK.

Last year’s winner was Josh Wintersgill, a Bristol-based inventor who created easyTravelseat, a sling to help air passengers with wheelchairs transfer while flying.

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