East Lancashire Deaf Society (ELDS) has been in existence since 1877. Until the late 1980’s deaf people were being controlled by missioners/hearing people who told them what to do, how to live in society and found them mundane jobs, deaf people were treated as if they could not live life on their own. This is seen as paternalism. Paternalism is still seen today in many of the deaf societies and associations around the world. Many are still run by hearing people with a handful of mainly tokenistic deaf people on governing bodies. Many deaf people who are in contact with these organisations have developed a culture of dependency.ELDS began to move away from the concept of paternalism and dependency some 15 years ago, when the constitution was amended to ensure that a minimum of 51% of the governing body were deaf people. In reality today, over 70% of our management committee is profoundly deaf. We also began to move the focus of our work outside the deaf centre, to address the situation of deaf people in the wider society. The organisation of social activities was left entirely in the hands of deaf people themselves; promoting independent living and equal opportunities. We have a mixture of deaf and hearing staff at ELDS who all work together to fight for equal opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people. We work closely with the deaf community and provide advocacy services, information services and support services. We have regular forums and support groups across the North West.