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Spanish Organization for the Blind (ONCE)

Prince of Asturias Award for Concord 2013

The Spanish Organization for the Blind (ONCE) was created in 1938 when several existing blind associations joined together with the aim of providing a means for these people to earn a living and not depend on an allowance. The ONCE is a corporation whose priority is to promote initiatives that improve the quality of life of blind and visually impaired people. This social institution has recognition and protection from the State to sell tickets for the ONCE lottery, which funds the organization and creates jobs for many of its members. The first draw took place on 8th May 1939.

The ONCE provides an aid package to over 71,000 blind or severely visually impaired people living in Spain. Most of this aid is free of charge and ranges from basic visual rehabilitation, financial aid for healthcare and specialised education to access to culture, sports and the promotion of employment. The organization is at the forefront of job creation for the disabled in Spain. With more than 20,000 workers engaged in selling their lottery tickets, the ONCE is run by its own members and has diversified its resources via business investments that combine economic and social returns. Accordingly, since 1986 it has boosted its presence in economic activities through its shareholding and management of businesses that create jobs and assist in the integration of blind and visually impaired people. In 2012, 57,168 workers –57.1% (32,656) of which have some kind of disability– formed part of the organizations and companies that comprise the ONCE and its Foundation. Courses were held that same year involving over 37,000 people.

The organization is structured as a business through: the ONCE Foundation, created in 1988 to promote the integration of people with disabilities into the workplace and universal accessibility to improve their quality of life and which represents almost four million disabled Spaniards; the Fundosa Group, an organization that brings together various fully- and partially-owned companies, which was founded a year later, with current sales of around 300 million per year and a staff of nearly 9,000 employees; and the ONCE Business Corporation (Spanish acronym, CEOSA), a company founded in 1994 with the aim of seeking funding means other than lottery tickets which is present in several industry sectors. Over 80,000 jobs have been created through the Foundation, which is financed via 3% of gross sales of the lottery tickets. Moreover, in 2012 alone, 7,300 people benefitted from its courses and it created or mediated in the creation of 4,200 new jobs.

The ONCE also undertakes wide-ranging international efforts, especially through the ONCE Foundation for Solidarity with the Blind of Latin America (Spanish acronym, FOAL), created in 1998 as an initiative of the Cooperation with Latin America Fund, in existence since the 1980s. The ONCE has undertaken actions in 19 countries in America in the fields of education (benefiting more than 121,000 blind schoolchildren), training and the workplace, reaching out to more than 52,000 people in the last four years. The ONCE is a member and promoter of the European Blind Union, the World Blind Union and the International Council for Education of the Blind, it forms part of the European Disability Forum, working with the UN Committee of Experts on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and, since 2000, has acted at a European level to pursue the goal that EU directives should take disabled people into account.

The ONCE has received several awards. These include the Paralympic Order in 2004, the highest award given by the International Paralympic Committee, for its proven track record and efforts in promoting sports among people with disabilities.

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