09/01/2007 - 22:00

Not for profit: New $15m facility adds value

09/01/2007 - 22:00

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The WA Association for the Blind is approaching the final stages of building a new $15.4 million facility for the blind or vision impaired, to be located on the organisation’s existing land in Victoria Park.

The WA Association for the Blind is approaching the final stages of building a new $15.4 million facility for the blind or vision impaired, to be located on the organisation’s existing land in Victoria Park.

Planned for a May 2007 opening, the building will house group-based living programs, recreational and educational services, and a public education centre.

The chosen site for the new facilities is an existing holding where the association has operated an 80-bed nursing home and hostel for the blind since 1923.

Association for the Blind chief executive Margaret Crowley said the organisation realised an upgrade was necessary in 2001, and that the new facilities would foster the principles of confidence, wellness and connection.

“When people lose their sight – it can be in early life or later life – they lose confidence in their ability to undertake activities,” she said.

Dr Crowley said the centre would allow people who are blind to build skills in areas such as mobility, information access and internet technology.

“Through a set of skills, we build their confidence and then we really focus on the whole person,” she said.

The centre will include a sports hall, with tai chi classes, a blind golf simulation suite and ten-pin bowling among the leisure activities on offer.

“Those activities, especially those about physical wellbeing, are a major help in treating depression, which is a major factor in losing one’s sight,” Dr Crowley said.

“We hope that people will rebuild their skills, gain confidence and become active participants in the community and the intellectual life of the community.”

The building will include an interactive public health and information centre, with vision screening facilities and activities to foster public understanding of blindness.

It will also include a public library for people who are blind, recording studios for the compilation of talking books, industry skills and confident living centres, a lecture theatre, a guide dog discovery centre and a centre for children.

Director of corporate development, Margaret Haydon, said the project had been challenging from a budgetary point of view.

“The reality is that one of the best things in the not-for-profit sector and one of the most challenging at the same time is you get to be involved in everything,” she said.

“However, there’s an extra ethical responsibility about how you spend someone else’s money.”

Ms Haydon said one of the advantages of the new facility would be the income generation potential of its lecture theatre and conference facilities.

The association will be managing a facility six times bigger than its current 1,000 square metre centre, along with the associated increases in running costs.

Dr Crowley said the additional running costs should be offset through the added services provided, based on a well-equipped conference room and 120-seat tiered lecture theatre.

“We’ve invested a great deal in the thinking and design of the facility. It’s very much designed on universal design principles, and because of that, it makes the client area very accessible to everybody,” she said.

Following a four-year fundraising campaign, the association has raised $14.4 million for the new building.

The largest funding contribution, of $6 million, has been donated by Lotterywest, with the state government contributing $2.2 million to establish a Braille and talking book library, and Japanese philanthropist Dr Haruhisa Handa donating $1.5 million towards the sports academy and recreation centre.

Donations of $500,000 have been received from Wesfarmers, Woodside Ltd, the Perron Foundation and the federal government, which also donated an additional $578,490, with Alinta Ltd donating $100,000.

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