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Spanish Organisation of the Blind, ONCE, wins Prince of Asturias Concord Award 2013

The Spanish National Organisation of the Blind, or ONCE, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, won Spain's prestigious Prince of Asturias Concord Award on Wednesday.
 
ONCE won the prize because of the "extraordinary work" it has done in helping achieve "the social integration of millions of disabled people," the jury said.
 
The organisation's work serves "as an example for numerous international initiatives that have followed its valuable experience," the jury said.
 
A total of 37 organisations, including the Robert Kennedy Center, the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the Fulbright Program, were candidates for the prize, the last of the eight awards handed out annually by the Prince of Asturias Foundation.
 
The Concord Award, according to the Prince of Asturias Foundation's Web site, recognizes people or institutions "whose work has made an exemplary and outstanding contribution of solidarity, of struggle against injustice, poverty, disease or ignorance, to the defense of freedom, or whose work has widened the horizons of knowledge or has been outstanding in protecting and preserving mankind's heritage."
 
ONCE was founded 75 years ago, in 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, with the goal of helping blind people work for a living and not become dependent on public support, thus improving the lives of the blind and those with other visual impairments, the foundation said in a statement.
 
The organisation enjoys the recognition and protection of the Spanish Government for ONCE lottery ticket sales, which generate income for the group and create jobs for members.
 
ONCE provides the more than 71,000 blind and visually impaired people living in Spain with assistance, most of it free, ranging from rehabilitation to financial assistance and specialized education, sports and the promotion of employment. The organisation 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 organisations and companies that comprise the ONCE and its Foundation. Courses were held that same year involving over 37,000 people.
 
The organisation 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 three and a half million disabled Spaniards; the Fundosa Group, an organisation 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.
 
Past winners of the Prince of Asturias Concord Award have included the "Heroes of Fukushima," English theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the World Network of Biosphere Reserves and British author and "Harry Potter" creator J.K. Rowling.
The awards, which Spain's Crown Prince Felipe will hand out later this year in the city of Oviedo, are regarded as the Ibero-American world's equivalent of the Nobels.