The Hilfsgemeinschaft – the Austrian Association in support of the blind and visually impaired is an independent non-profit organisation founded in 1935. With more than 4.500 members, it is Austria’s oldest and largest self-help organisation to improve the conditions and standards of living of its clients. The Hilfsgemeinschaft is almost entirely funded by donations and voluntary financial contributions which are also tax-deductible. In 2001, we were awarded the Austrian seal of approval for donations (“Österreichsiches Spendengütesiegel”).
The membership in the Hilfsgemeinschaft is free of charge for blind or visually impaired clients offering access to a broad variety of services, which are even complimentary at times.
Reducing barriers and improving accessibility is a crucial aspect in supporting blind and visually impaired people, hence The Hilfsgemeinschaft offers advice to companies, organisations and authorities in planning and implementing barrier-free measures. It provides information about new developments in several technological domains (smartphones, tablet computers, e-book readers, etc.) and shows which devices are helpful for visually impaired persons and how they can be used in everyday life.
The development of new and promising solutions for the blind and visually impaired is also an important contribution to reducing barriers. The Hilfsgemeinschaft – with its team of experts – is part of national as well as international research consortia, such as the project RoboBraille, an e-mail and web-based service automatically converting documents into different legible/accessible data formats, the project INK 2016 to improve indoor-navigation and communication in local public transport, and the project VUK with new technologies for door-to-door navigation.
Our magazine “Sichtweisen” (German for “perspectives”) has both normally sighted and visually impaired readers. It is designed to fulfil the requirements of visually impaired readers and in it’s print and audio versions, it informs about new therapeutic approaches in ophthalmology or about innovative projects and technologies enhancing the inclusion of visually handicapped persons, for instance. The regularly published electronic newsletters keep readers informed about dates, events, campaigns and projects.
The fully accessible website www.hilfsgemeinschaft.at offers additional information and tips on counselling, services and leisure activities including a comprehensive overview of all services and activities offered. The Hilfsgemeinschaft is also present in social media like Facebook or Twitter.
The Hilfsgemeinschaft is a member of numerous bodies and committees in which it represents the interests of its blind and visually impaired members including ÖAR – Austrian National Council of Disabled Persons, ASI – Austrian Standards Institute (e.g. committee for guiding systems, working group for accessible build environment – design principles, working group for technical aids for blind, visually and mobility impaired persons, etc.), platform “football4all”, EDF – European Disability Forum, OCG – Austrian Computer Society, etc.
The Waldpension is a specially equipped house targeted mainly at senior blind and visually impaired persons. Ramps instead of stairs, bannister rails throughout the premises (within the house and all over the park), contrasting surfaces and designs and glare-free lighting are standard. The house has a newly refurbished nursing ward with 12 beds. Once a month we offer day trips from Vienna for relatives of our permanent guests, friends and interested persons.