Doug Alker, East Lancashire Deaf Society - Change Maker Nominee

Posted in

Our Change Maker award recognises people who are the driving force behind an organisation with great impact.

Doug has incredible vision coupled with the passion and motivation to follow through and make things happen. He is the driving force behind everything that happens at ELDS and has made it the sustainable and wide-reaching organisation it is today.”

Syka Iftikhar, General Manager and Director of Operations at ELDS


Doug began working in deaf rights at the age of 18, setting up his first magazine ‘Argonaut’. This was the beginning of a lifetime’s dedication to fostering a climate of independence and inclusion for deaf people.

He was director and then CEO of the Royal National Institute for Deaf People and later chair of the British Deaf Association. He also created another magazine about deaf rights issues called ‘The Voice’, which ran for 3 years. He has been at ELDS since 1984, when he was elected chair of the organisation, and has been its unpaid managing director for almost twenty years.


Throughout his many years and different roles championing and working for deaf rights, Doug has been heavily involved in tackling the barriers faced by deaf people. One particularly monumental achievement was when the organisation he formed in 1997, the Federation of Deaf People, was responsible for influencing the Government to officially recognise British Sign Language (BSL).

At ELDS, Doug has helped address key issues such as education difficulties and low employment rates amongst the deaf community. He has successfully guided the organisation through two recessions and various funding cuts to create sustainability and financial independence through service development and earned income.


ELDS has grown considerably over the past 30 years, from an annual turnover of £45,000 in 1990 to one of £2 million today. It is an organisation that continues to grow, both in terms of its financial security and sustainability as well as its service provision and level of impact across the whole country. ELDS measure its impact through annual social media reports, client feedback forms, and most recently through its membership scheme. It has seen impact through an increase in referrals, along with a growing online audience.

It provides a continually growing range of services that help around 200 deaf people a month to navigate social difficulties and exclusion, including offering advice, signposting and interpretation as well as outreach support and childcare services. Doug is particularly proud of the apprenticeship scheme ELDS runs, which provides deaf people with the opportunity to gain experience and confidence in a work environment. These apprentices, 25 to date, often progress into employment within one of ELDS’s social enterprises, such as the Courthouse Restaurant or Home Solutions.


The charity has been steadily growing over the years in response to demand for the services provided. In addition to the head office in Blackburn, ELDS has also opened offices in Preston, Burnley, Lancaster and Kendal and hopes to continue to widen its area of operation to promote and support equal access for the deaf community. In light of the expansion, ELDS has changed its name to Lancashire Deaf Service which represents the work delivered across the county.

Its ongoing aim is to change the perception of deaf people in society and it will continue to develop resources in order to achieve this goal. One thing Doug would particularly like to see happen in the near future, is for more employers outside of ELDS to take on apprentices from its scheme.

ELDS has received two loans from Charity Bank to help consolidate finances and develop its Deaf Apprentice Training & Development initiative.

We use Survey Monkey to record votes, view its privacy policy here.

View the Impact Award voting terms and conditions.