A CENTRE providing facilities for people with sight and hearing impairments is opening in Darlington.

The facility will be at Vane House, which is presently being used by Darlington Borough Council's social services department as a drop-in centre for people with learning disabilities.

The refurbished centre, in Darlington's Art Centre, was opened in December, soon after the council took over the building.

But council officials have decided that drop-in centres need to be provided throughout the borough for people with learning disabilities, so the service provided at Vane House will be distributed around the area.

Vane House will be turned into the first resource centre of its kind in Darlington for people with sight and hearing problems.

Previously, people had to travel to Teesside to access specialist services and advice to help them live with their disabilities.

But people who use the new Darlington service will have access to a wide range of equipment, including computers adapted for users with impaired sight or hearing.

There will also be a purpose-built kitchen with adapted equipment for people with sight problems so they can learn how to cater for themselves or try out the latest utensils before they decide to buy them.

A service will also be provided to allow clients to have their specialist equipment adapted or repaired.

The new centre will be open during normal working hours and trained staff will be on hand to provide help and assistance for anyone wanting to use the facilities.

It is hoped when the centre is fully operational in the summer it will provide a service for about 200 clients aged 16 and over.

Bill Dixon, the council's cabinet member for social services, said: "This is an exciting new project and it brings a service to Darlington for the first time.

"People with sight or hearing impairment have previously had to travel outside the borough for this service. Now we can provide the type of service they need right in the town centre."