What is ONCE?
A large dose of energy, what we call illusion, is what fuelled the start-up in 1938 of what the world now knows as the ONCE. This is not chauvinism. In its 75 years of existence, which the Organization will be celebrating in 2013, it has built up a system of social benefits for the blind and visually impaired that has no equivalent anywhere else in the world.
A government body, with members taken from several ministries, and the ONCE itself safeguard the fulfilment of its social purpose and progressive adaptation to social, political and economic transformations.
That same source of energy, illusion, was behind the birth in 1988 of a great project: the ONCE Foundation for Cooperation and the Social Inclusion of the Disabled which, in 2013, also celebrates an anniversary, its 25th. During this time the ONCE Foundation has generated more than 80,000 jobs for the disabled. Today, the two institutions, combined in their main purpose, that of the social and labour-market inclusion of the disabled, are known as the ONCE and its Foundation.
Other Supportive Initiatives
Over the years, the Institution has adopted other supportive initiatives. The ONCE Foundation in Support of the Blind in Latin America (FOAL), born in 1998, is a good example. It is currently developing training and employment projects in 19 Latin American countries and other depressed areas. Another example, set up in 2007, is the ONCE Foundation for the Care of the Deaf-Blind (FOAPS).
Meanwhile, within the European Union, the ONCE and its Foundation are strengthening links to ensure that disability has its place on the agenda of community policies. Together with other organizations from the world of disability, it has notched up achievements of great importance, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (protocol adopted by the UN General Assembly on 13 December 2006 in New York), and the widespread acceptance of its theses in debates such as the EU accessibility regulations or employment for the disabled. European Commissioners have visited Spain in recent years with the ONCE and its Foundation as one of their priorities. The social inclusion model built up in Spain with the ONCE and its Foundation as the driving force has attracted the European Community’s attention.
With the Third Sector
Moreover, the enormous transformation of social structures, both in Spain and the rest of Europe, has led the ONCE to play a decisive role in the nascent but robust social and economic model, now indispensable in the words of many, known as the Third Sector, a representative platform of more than nine million persons at risk of exclusion, which brings together civil associations, movements of persons with a disability, foundations and other groups demanding inclusive public policies in their fight to protect social rights.
Continuous evolution, changing models, in short, the search for greater social equality and non-discriminatory standards. The ONCE of the twenty-first century is situated in this context with the same strength and illusion as when it started out, in the first half of the last century.