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History & Archives – Part 2


In the 1920’s RAD increased its work in challenging the misdiagnosis of Deaf children as mentally subnormal. This meant many Deaf children were removed from London’s mental asylums and placed into schools for Deaf children. RAD continued to campaign for a change in the system of certification (diagnosis) of these children to make sure that no more should suffer similarly.


During the Second World War, Deaf people worked hard for RAD. Many Deaf people lost their homes and their lives during this period. The Association’s annual report for 1942 has an account by the Rev. E R Sowter, Chaplain of RAD St Bede’s, account one night in April 1941 when the church suffered repeated incendiary bombing during a five-hour raid which caused the deaths of seven Deaf people. The building had severe damage, and major rebuilding work was needed, to which the Deaf community contributed generously!

The great changes by the welfare state legislation of the 1940s and a series of later post-war reforms and developments created a changing role for RAD, with more emphasis on its pioneering ‘social work’ with Deaf and deafblind people.


In 1968 a revolution was to begin within RAD with the appointment of a new Director General, the Reverend Ivor Scott-Oldfield. Among the new changes he brought in were a new committee cycle with “open minutes” and staff attendance; equal pay for equal work; an increase in the number of workers in the field and a decrease in the number of administrative staff. Another decision was that staff should be selected because they were considered the best qualified for work with Deaf people, irrespective of their religious beliefs – this caused some trustees to resign.
It appears that one golden rule was impressed on all the Association’s workers: “Never do anything for Deaf people that they could and should do for themselves. Teach them how, but never do it yourself instead”


In 1986 the Royal Association in aid of the Deaf and Dumb’ changed its name to the ‘Royal Association in aid of Deaf People’.


The appointment of Tom Fenton as Chief Executive in 1998 brought about a major reorganisation with the launch of a centralised interpreting agency and the relocation of RAD’s head office to Colchester to contain costs. RAD was incorporated as a company limited by guarantee (non profit) in April 2000, while remaining a registered charity.
The next decade saw a focus on increasing quality and professionalism of services: RAD services gained quality marks from appropriate bodies such as the Care Quality Commission, Community Legal Services, and Matrix accreditation.

RAD supported campaigning initiatives for British Sign Language, achieving the recognition of BSL as “a language in its own right” by the British Government in 2003.
Also during this period RAD built on its partnership working with other regional Deaf Associations. Successes included a national consortium working with young Deaf people. Another initiative was to provide back-room services such as finance and Human Resources to other Deaf organisations.


Following Tom Fenton’s retirement; Dr Jan Sheldon was appointed the new Chief Executive of RAD.

RAD updated its vision, mission and values. The vision of the organisation is “Together with Deaf People; creating a better future”. It published its five year strategic plan which was “developed by engaging with Deaf people, listening to what they tell us they need now and what they think they will need in the future…”

RAD has two clear aims:

  • To provide responsive and accessible services for Deaf people
  • To support mainstream providers to be more accessible to Deaf people

The trustees and the executive team provide strong and clear leadership to a dedicated and committed team of over 130 staff working across East Anglia, London and the South of England.

We are immensely proud of how the organisation has developed and the services we provide for Deaf people.

You can contact us in a number of ways:

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