Slovak Blind and Partially Sighted Union

Basic information and characteristics of activities

The Slovak Blind and Partially Sighted Union (UNSS) is a civic association the mission of which is the advocacy of rights and activation of people with visual impairment. The UNSS was initiated and finally founded by blind and partially sighted people (BPS) themselves in 1990. Throughout its history the organization has been gradually getting more and more professionalized and still constantly aims to improve the quality of life of BPS people. The UNSS operates within the whole country – it gathers over 3000 blind and partially sighted people and their supporters and annually provides services to more than 2000 clients. We have 8 regional centres (in each region) which provide services to all BPS people free of charge. Moreover UNSS has 63 cell organizations which are responsible for organizing leisure time activities for its members.

We are active also internationally – our employees are involved within the structures of the European Blind Union (EBU) as well as within the European Disability Forum (EDF) and the International Council for Education and Rehabilitation of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI).

 Among the most important activities we could mention – provision of social services (social counselling and social rehabilitation), involvement within the legislation process (especially in the field of social legislation), raising awareness about visual impairment, providing consultations regarding environmental and other barriers, accessibility of information and rights advocacy. In order to assure activation of BPS people we are providing specialized social counselling and social rehabilitation. Specialized social counselling is mainly concerning sight loss acceptance, social and legal counselling and counselling regarding education or employment. Furthermore social rehabilitation covers trainings in the area of mobility and orientation, use of the white cane, daily living skills, reading and writing Braille, the use of optical aids or assistive technology (E.G. PC with a screen reader or magnification software).

Our projects

UNSS is usually involved in several national or international projects the purpose of which is to improve the life quality of BPS people. The key topics of our projects are the following:

  • Developing leadership, communication and self-advocacy skills: for instance by means of an international project called YALTA (Youth Activation – Long Term Ambition) the aim of which was to activate young BPS people as well as volunteers without this disability to own civic engagement. VISAL (Visually Impaired Seniors Active Learning) was again an international project with a very similar purpose i.e. to develop communication and self-advocacy skills of BPS seniors.
  • Improving accessibility of information, environment and communication: In September 2020, the Slovak Blind and Partially Sighted Union started an international project titled EDI (From Education to Inclusion) funded by the Erasmus+ Programme. The goal of the project is to contribute to elimination of the barriers in the area of physical environment, information and in interpersonal communication by creating the modules of training and its running for specific target groups – employees of municipalities and leaders with visual impairment.
  • Improving accessibility of museums and other cultural institutions: this topic is further exploited within projects supported by the Ministry of Culture of SR. UNSS regularly organizes conferences focused upon accessibility of culture and art for BPS people. A photography contest is being organized in order to raise awareness concerning visual impairment.
  • Preventing eye disorders: Healthy Eyes in the Kindergarten is considered to be one of our most successful projects. This project is mostly targeted at carrying out eye measurements to pre-school aged children. This screening method is applied within kindergartens in the whole country.
  • Developing UNSS social services: the quality of our provided services is absolutely crucial. Our work with clients is realized individually and within groups too. With the support of the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Family of SR we are carrying out a residential program focusing especially on working with groups of BSVI people. The main topics in this case are for instance – accepting the consequences of the visual impairment, getting more independent and family support.

Our clients

Our help is primarily designed to people with visual impairment (blind, partially sighted, low vision) in all ages, their family members and supporters. From a broader perspective we are also providing consultations to the wide public (employers, educators) who are interested in obtaining a deeper inlook into the issue of visual impairment or to break various barriers.

Our team

The social services (social counselling and social rehabilitation) are provided within the whole country by means of 8 regional centres (in each region) and by means of highly qualified staff (social workers – counsellors and social rehabilitation instructors). UNSS has more than 40 employees professionally managed and supported by the UNSS headquarters Office. In addition to that we have a system of accredited trainings which is implemented to foster further professionalization of our staff in the field of visual impairment. Last but not least we are closely cooperating with volunteers who are mainly involved within fundraising, awareness raising activities and into direct client help too.