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PURPOSE: BOB WHITAKER SAYS TADWA AIMS TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY AND ENJOYMENT OF LIFE OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, THE FRAIL AGED AND THOSE CARING FOR THEM. PHOTO: GRANT CURRALL

Communication aids those in need

FOR 25 years Technology Assisting Disability WA (TADWA) has maintained a low media profile, quietly enjoying the fruits of its own success.

Established in 1984 by a small group of Telecom (Telstra) employees, the unique not-for-profit organisation has grown from providing services to just 50 people each year, to assisting 1,500 people last financial year.

The organisation relied heavily on volunteers in the early days, however after securing a small grant from the Department of Health in 2002, it was able to employ two part-time staff to coordinate activities and services.

Since then, TADWA has experienced significant growth in services and has broadened its range of offering, helping thousands of individuals and families throughout the state.

TADWA chief executive Bob Whitaker said the organisation, which now employs 20 staff and has more than 60 volunteers, existed to design, construct, adapt and install and maintain communication aids for people with disabilities and the frail aged.

"TADWA's purpose is to improve the quality and enjoyment of life of people with disabilities, the frail aged and those caring for them, through the application of technology and the skills of volunteers and staff," Mr Whitaker said.

"We provide solutions for independence."

TADWA is an independent state organisation, although there are similar organisations throughout other states and territories, all at varying stages of development and size.

The organisations are members of Technical Aid to the Disabled Australia (TADAust), which has a committee and representatives from each state.

Under TADAust, the states and territories collaborate and share strategies, ideas and solutions, and hold annual conferences.

"One of the main strategic aims of TADAust is to provide a national approach to the corporate sector and governments in securing funding and sponsorships," Mr Whitaker said.

While TADWA refrains from any formal fundraising campaigns, it does source funding from a range of organisations including the Department of Health Home and Community Care program (64 per cent), fee-for-service organisations (31 per cent), donations and bank interest (4 per cent), and the Department Education and Training (1 per cent).

To develop aids for its clients, TADWA sources used equipment - mainly from government agencies, not-for-profit disability service providers, private business and individuals - that is refurbished and reissued to target groups.

"Equipment located in our workshops used to design, construct and modify customised aids and equipment is purchased new with funds sourced from Lotterywest grants, Home and Community Care non-recurrent funds, Bendigo Bank community grants and private donations," Mr Whitaker said.

In a sign of TADWA's growth and success, the organisation recently moved into a new $3.4 million purpose-built and designed 5,000 square metre facility in Bassendean, which includes offices, a computer training room, storage rooms and two workshops.

"Most aid and equipment are prepared at our premises and then issued or installed in clients' residences, workplaces or premises," Mr Whitaker told WA Business News.

He said construction of the new building was made possible by the Town of Bassendean providing the land and the funding partnerships with Lotterywest, the state government, Perth-based engineering firm Lycopodium and Bendigo Bank.

Mr Whitaker also attributed TADWA's success to a working relationship with Perth Area Consultative Committee executive officer Marilynn Horgan, who was instrumental in introducing TADWA to the Bendigo Bank, leading to it also becoming a funding partner with our new building.

The PACC was part of the federal government's regional partnerships scheme, which has since been replaced by a new scheme.

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