Sign language therapist wins entrepreneur award


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.

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.

Victoria Nelson, Stelios Award winner

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 disability charity Leonard Cheshire, on 22 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.

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 said:

‘Congratulations to the entrepreneur Victoria Nelson and her business Deaf 4 Deaf for becoming the overall winner this year!

‘Although we have had an additional 9 other winners this year so congratulations to all!

‘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!’

Neil Heslop, CEO of Leonard Cheshire, said:

‘Congratulations to Victoria and to all of our winners. Again, we have seen a record number of entries to the Stelios Awards for Disabled Entrepreneurs with an impressive array of talent and business ideas.  

‘These awards change lives and at a moment of Brexit-related economic uncertainty they are a timely reminder of the passion, innovation, and determination of disabled people.

‘Our winners show the value of new approaches and flexibility in a business, and the need to overcome outdated misconceptions about disability. UK PLC needs the unique creativity and contribution of disabled talent and Sophia’s achievements will inspire many to follow in her footsteps.’ 

A record 88 candidates applied for the awards this year, jointly run with disability charity Leonard Cheshire. This is a 10% rise from last year.

The applications came from a diverse mix of sectors, including fashion, retail, sport and leisure and tourism.

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. 


Media enquiries

For further information, interview requests and case studies, please contact: Sam Buckley on samuel.buckley@leonardcheshire.org or 020 3242 0204.

For information or interviews with Sir Stelios please email Richard Shackleton on richard.shackleton@easygroup.co.uk or call 07905 779 799. Alternatively, email Tracy Ghori on tg@stelios.com or call 07900 606 557.