chapter  2
28 Pages

The challenge of the original goals

The story of ONCE’s origins, explained in the previous chapter, provides a rough idea of the organization’s original goals. Still, it is important to further clarify them. As we saw before, the problem of the Spanish blind was mendicancy. But as their first leaders saw it, and in contrast with the narrow perspective of the old Patronatos, the creation of ONCE was not intended to obtain official tolerance for begging. Rather, the organization’s founders shifted the emphasis from blind people to people suffering from blindness. As people, their demand was for a place in the social division of labour, confidence in their capacity to face new challenges, and recognition of their rights and duties as adult citizens. In all their journals, conferences and public events, the leaders of the organizations of the blind doggedly insisted on the capacity of the blind to be better off, both professionally and as human beings. Their discourse was in clear contrast to the ‘blindness’ of politicians and entrepreneurs, who had failed to give the sightless any chance to prove their worth, wasting in this way the industriousness of the blind. Some even went so far as to estimate the costs of this ‘blindness.’ As Antonio las Heras, a blind chemical engineer, put it:

the blind are a heavy burden for the national economy, which each year loses over twenty-seven million pesetas due to the inactivity of ten thousand pairs of idle hands which daily consume twenty-thousand pesetas, and fail to produce around fifty thousand pesetas per day.