European Disability Forum

European Accessibility Act is forthcoming in December

“In times of crisis – economic, migration, human rights crisis – nobody should be left or forgotten behind”, stated EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis (Brussels, 29th of December).

Just like the Zero Project, the European Disability Forum (EDF) is engaging for policies improving the rights and life of persons with disabilities. Three weeks ago, EDF met with the European Commission in order to talk about the concluding observations from the United Nations to the European Union on the implementation of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

European Commissioner Marianne Thyssen declared that the rights of persons with disabilities are included in the European Commission agenda, in particular on employment and education, fight against poverty and accessibility.

Two actions gave weight to her declaration:

– A new European Accessibility Act will be discussed on the December 2nd, with a possible publication for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3rd December).

– The Commission could suspend European funds in case Member States do not respect the conditions agreed in the regulations.

The Zero Project did a lot of work on accessibility in 2014, check out our report or browse our policies and practices . And don’t forget to visit EDF website and their original press release.

Zero Project 2016

Zero Project Report 2016: Final Selection of Innovative Policies on Inclusive Education and ICT

Our network of partners and disability experts voted on the final list of innovative policies on inclusive education and ICT – our congratulations to all of them:

1. Brazil’s National Plan of Rights of Persons with Disabilities ‘Living without Limit’ of 2011

2. Costa Rica’s National Plan for Work Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities of 2012

3. Montenegro – UNICEF’s It’s about ability programme in Montenegro of 2010

4. EU-USA’s Standards Dialogue on e-Accessibility, since 2004

5. Ghana’s Inclusive Education Policy of 2014

6. Italy’s Framework Law for the Assistance, Social Inclusion and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of 1992

7. Ireland’s Standard on Universal Design for Customer Engagement in Tourism Services of 2013, and toolkits

8. Estonia’s Primus Programme, 2008-2014

9. Canada – New Brunswick’s Inclusive Education Policy of 2013

10. International – INEE’s Minimum Standards for Education and Toolkit of 2004

11. Iraq – Kurdistan’s Inclusive Education Programme of 2007

12. United States of America’s Head Start Programme of 1965, expanded in 1981 and reauthorized in 2007

These 12 policies will be presented in our upcoming 2016 report and discussed during our conference in Vienna (from 10 to 12th February). By the way, you can already find some practical information and chose a hotel close to the conference on this page.

Childhood Studies - Call4Papaer

Call for paper in preparation for the 7th International conference on childhood studies in Finland

As you know the Zero Project theme this year is inclusive education and ICT. Our annual conference will take place from 10 to 12 February 2016, and will highlight good practices and policies from all over the world.

One way to build upon this momentum is to make academic contribution in the field of education and disability. Therefore, we encourage you to answer the call for paper sent by the Finnish Society for Childhood Studies and the Child and Youth Research Institute.

Together, they organise the seventh international conference on childhood studies (6th- 8th June 2016) in the University of Turku, Finland. The theme of the conference is Childhood in Everyday Life, and they welcome papers and proposal from all kind of topic, including disability (n°15).

Deadline for submission of abstracts is 31st January 2016.

For more information and detailed guidelines, please see

UN-Habitat: Housing for Persons with Disabilities living in Cities_Book_Cover

UN-Habitat published a new study on the right to adequate housing for persons with disabilities

UN-Habitat just published a new study on the right to adequate housing for persons with disabilities, written by Michael Szporluk, Anirban Pal and Meritt Buyer. It provides an analysis of the lack of political will to implement recommendations, contains many solutions and pleads for better data and understanding of this crucial issue. The publication is available online at UN-Habitat website!

Check out also our blogpost about the three-day UN Forum in Nairobi (Kenya) on disability inclusion and accessible urban development that was is organized in close collaboration with UN-Habitat and where the Zero Project recently presented its work.

Cover Disability Rights Monitoring Book DRPI

Disability, Rights Monitoring, and Social Change – A new book written by our partner DRPI

As you know the Zero Project tries to capture with its Social Indicators the status of the implementation of the CRPD on a world map – and this would not be possible without the crucial help of disabled people’s organisations from across the world.

The hot-off-the-press book Disability, Rights Monitoring, and Social Change. Building Power out of Evidence explores and challenges the ways in which disability rights are monitored. It underlines that any monitoring of the CRPD has to be inclusive of persons with disabilities themselves – Nothing about us without us! Its chapters address the current theoretical, methodological, and practical issues surrounding disability rights monitoring and offer a detailed look at law and policy reforms, best practices, and holistic methods. Edited by renowned human rights and disability experts: Marcia H. Rioux, leader of our partner Disability Rights Promotion International (DRPI), Paula C. Pinto and Gillian Parekh, it has received very positive critics. Well worth a read!

International Labour Office

ILO Global Business & Disability Network Charter signed by employers of 2 mio people

The International Labour Organization (ILO) encourages economical actors to hire and value the work of persons with disabilities. During their annual event on Global Business and Disability Network, they developed a charter, which was signed last week (28 October 2015) by 11 multinationals, which currently employ more than 2 million people all together.

The Charter contains 10 clear and short principles, and covers key areas such as non-discrimination, providing equal treatment and opportunities, job retention, accessibility and respect to confidentiality. It also focuses on the importance of providing attention to all types of disabilities, in particular to people with mental and intellectual disabilities.

The 11 companies that decided to adhere to the Charter are: Accor, Adecco, AXA, Carrefour, Casino, Dow, L’Oréal, Michelin, Orange, Sodexo and Standard Bank. Following their example, more multinationals will surely sign as well. Have a look at them by watching the podcast of the session.

The Zero Project highlighted in 2013, for instance, the Business Disability Forum as an Innovative Practice that making it easier for corporations to employ and do business with disabled people.


Innovative Practices news

Our partner GAATES reported in its most recent newsletter about the leading role of one of our Innovative Practices 2014 – Scandic Hotels – in term of accessibility in the tourism industry. Scandic Hotels has been invited by the European Union to present its award-winning accessibility training at the EU’s Tourism Education & Training conference held in Brussels on October 21.

Do you know about F123? We reported about them in 2013. The Project F123 enables access to educational and employment opportunities through free and open source assistive technologies. It recently developed the F123 Access, a software that reformats web pages to make them more accessible and convenient for persons who are blind and use screen-reading software.

As well, do you know what is “OGO”? It is this revolutionary wheelchair that allows you to move without your hand, by using just your body weight and gravity.


UNESCO’s online debate on inclusive TVET and a Universal Design in Education conference

You are an educational professional? Don’t miss out on UNESCO’s online discussion on Inclusion and TVET in the context of lifelong learning that started last week and check out the programme of the forthcoming conference on Universal Design in Education in Dublin.


UNESCO online discussion on Inclusion and TVET

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) invites you to participate in an online discussion “Inclusive Technical and Vocational, Education and Training (TVET) in the context of Lifelong Learning – Skills for Work and Life: Empowering people with disabilities”, organized in partnership with the European Network on Inclusive Education & Disability (incluD-ed).

The online discussion started last Friday (29 October) and will go on the next three weeks, until the 18 November, 2015, around the following themes:
(1) Advancing inclusive and equitable access to TVET (week 1).
(2) Improving quality and relevance in TVET to support transitions (week 2).
(3) Transforming TVET for inclusive and sustainable societies (week 3).

To access the online discussion please follow the link to the discussion!

For details about TVET see the UNESCO background document.


Conference on Universal Design in Education in Dublin

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design of Ireland, which is behind one of our Innovative Policies of 2014, organizes a conference the 12th & 13th of November in Dublin Castle on the “Education Across the Continuum: Innovating through Universal Design”.

The conference will showcase the “best in class” teaching practices of Universal Design from Ireland and internationally and provide educators with practical skills and resources to start teaching Universal Design. It will be of interest to educational professionals within universities and institutes of higher education at third and fourth level.

To register, visit:

The Logo for UN Enable

UN Forum on Accessible Urban Development features the Zero Project

Last week, the Zero Project presented its work at a three-day UN Forum in Nairobi (Kenya) on disability inclusion and accessible urban development.

We already informed you about this event two weeks ago. During the Forum, experts from around the world presented different ways to ensure that the world’s urban development agenda will be inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities.

When focusing on accessibility in 2014, the Zero Project had identified a total of 69 innovative solutions for moving towards a universally accessible built environment, transportation, ICT and services. At the forum Dr. Michael Fembek, Zero Project’s Director, presented in particular promising Innovative Practices and Policies advancing accessible urban transportation. One of them is, for instance, the first universally accessible Bus Rapid Transit system in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Accessible transport is key to an inclusive urban development. It is vital for everyone, not just persons with disabilities. You use it when going to hospital, school, and employment. Comprehensive long-term and multi-level efforts are required,” says Dr Fembek.

You can find many more solutions on this website, have a look around our different databases and indicators. You can find the full press release concerning the Forum in Nairobi in our downloads section, along with all our reports, or directly by following this link.
And if you wish to contact the Zero Project Director, Dr. Michael Fembek, you can do so by phone (+43 664 240 9186) or e-mail (

WFC Future Policy Award Logo

Finland’s education legislation won a silver Future Policy Award 2015

Children’s right to education is one of the most essential human rights and a door opener to access many other rights. This was also recognized by this year’s Future Policy Award, the first international prize to highlight best policy, established by the World Future Council (Zero Project operating partner), and organized in partnership with UNICEF (a Zero Project partner) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

For guaranteeing children’s equal access to high-quality education and training, irrespective of ethnic origin, age, wealth, language or location, and for a holistic and trust based education system that produces excellent results, both in terms of child well-being and international test scores, Finland’s ‘Basic Education Act’, adopted in 1998, won a Silver Future Policy Award. 

Results from the international PISA tests comparing 15-year-olds in different countries in reading, mathematics and science, show that Finland has ranked near the top in all three competencies since 2000. It is hoped that this Future Policy Award 2015 will encourage other governments to follow the Finnish government in paying equally detailed attention to their education systems and to provide education free of charge to everyone.

In terms of inclusion of children with disabilities, Finland’s Basic Education Act contains also important provisions, such as:

“A disabled child or a child with special educational needs has the right to get the interpretation and assistance services he or she needs to participate in education, other educational services, special aids and the services provided under Section 39 free of charge.” and “The language of instruction may also be Saami, Roma or sign language.”

According to UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education, in Finland less than 2% of children are studying in special schools for children with disabilities. Thanks to the current legislation, it is first and always clarified whether it is possible to organise the teaching and support in mainstream education. As well, the realization of the inclusion is more up to the guidelines and school culture than external resources.

Similarly, the European Agency on Special Needs and Inclusive Education reported that Finland’s reforms in the 90s have reduced the number of special schools and that it is the duty of the municipality and the individual school to include pupils with special educational needs in the mainstream educational system.  The country abolished also, for instance, separate curricula of special education and all pupils use the same curriculum individualised by individual education plans. Furthermore, the Finnish strategy for the development of special needs and inclusive education published in 2007 emphasised the importance of the wide basic education network which supports the right of every child to attend the nearest mainstream school.

However, to build a fully inclusive system in compliance with article 24 of the CRPD progress still needs to be made. According to the Zero Project Indicator research of 2014 on inclusive primary education, the Finnish Disability Forum reported that even though the principle of inclusion is primary policy target, education for some children with disabilities is still provided in special schools (there are still 5 state-owned special schools for deaf, blind, intellectual disabilities) and there are problems with implementation (lack of access, lack of support staff, etc.).