A person with intellectual disabilitis dries a washed dish int he kitchen

Today we bring you part two of our awardee blog. Here, we take a look at projects that aim to support people in moving from institutions and regain control over their daily lives and decisions.

Making deinstitutionalisation work

We begin by taking a look at models that support a holistic approach to deinstitutionalisation. The number of children in residential care in Moldova has dropped by 86 per cent since Lumos began promoting deinstitutionalisation and inclusive education in the country. Also in Moldova, Keystone’s “Community for All” programme has supported more than 2,000 people with intellectual disabilities to move back to their families or community-based homes. In Ireland, Genio Trust has been working with the Government and philanthropy to co-ordinate closure of institutions and moving of residents into a community-based environment.

The parallel session on making deinstitutionalisation work takes place on day three of the conference (Friday 22nd February) at 13:40 in M1.

A lady carries a tray of coffee cups in a kitchen, while an onlooker smiles in the backgrouns
Hasnija, beneficiary of Union SUMERO’s housing and support prepares coffee in her own home

Supported housing models in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Many organisations are managing models for supporting those who have moved from institutions, or as a preventative measure to allow people to stay in their communities. In Romania, Pro ACT Suport are running a ‘stepping-stone’ model to train and support people with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities to live in the community. In Kazakhstan, the Psychoanalytic Association is supporting people in the Almaty region to move from institutions via a Training Café. Milan Petrovic school in Serbia supports adults with intellectual disabilities to live in the community with tailored assistance. Finally, Union SUMERO in Bosnia and Herzegovina has helped 80 people with intellectual disabilities to live in shared houses in their local communities with daily support.

The parallel session on Supported housing models in Eastern Europe and Central Asia takes place on day 2 of the conference (Thursday 21st) at 16:00 in M1.

Supported decision making and personal budget models

Finally, we look at models that support persons to have more control over their daily lives through supported-decision making and personal budgets.

Three people, two in football shirts looking away from the camera towards a football pitch. A man in a black t-shirt has his arm around the shoulder of one of the footballers
Taking part in sport – a choice through Israel Unlimited

Innovative models for personal budgets and decision-making have been awarded in Israel. Bizchut have successfully demonstrated a model for supported decision-making which has let to changes in national government legislation. JDC and Israel Unlimited have successfully worked with the government to start a personal budget model, having worked with leaders and policy makers from the United States, where there is a well-established model. And in Sweden, PO- Skåne has been working as a contractor for local governments to provide personal ombudsmen and a self-determination coordinator for people with psychosocial disabilities.

The parallel session on supported decision making and personal budget models takes place on day 1 of the conference (Wednesday 20th) at 13:30 in M1.

Top picture – Mujo, a beneficiary of Union SUMERO’s shared housing and daily support, now living in his own home.

A woman with intellectual disabilities places her voting paper in the voting box during a drill

Today we begin a multi-part blog where we introduce you to our awardee projects that will be presented at the 2019 Zero Project Conference. We’ll also explore the themes that connect them.

Possibly the largest aspect of political participation for most people is elections, and as such this was a key topic for our research this year. Many projects, both from governments and NGOs are working to improve access to elections for persons with various disabilities.

Accessible elections

Around the world, projects are increasing general access to voting such as Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court’s “Electoral Justice Accessibility Programme” which moves polling stations to accessible buildings, provides staff that can communicate in sign-language and provides electronic voting machines. In Canada, Elections Saskatchewan’s Accessibility Implementation Plan improves homebound voting and improved polling station access, while in Mexico, Instituto Nacional Electoral’s national protocol improves access to polling stations, provides electoral material that promotes Braille ballots and provides sign language at public debates.

A ballot paper overlayed with a sleeve with holes next to Braille numbers

A Braille ballot sleeve in Saskatchewan

Paraguay Electoral Tribunal are improving accessing to elections after endorsing a number of recommendations from USAID and Fundación Saraki, including absentee ballots, plus braille and sign language voting information to improve access to voting. Finally, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems in the United States has developed a free-to-download election access observation toolkit which for organisations around the world to observe and collect data on access to electoral processes.

The parallel session on accessible elections takes place on day 2 (21st February) of the Zero Project Conference 2019 in the main room M1 at 14:35 CET.

Inclusive voter information

Information to help persons with disabilities understand the voting process and to choose who they wish to vote for is being made more accessible in some very innovative ways. In Spain, Plena Inclusión runs an awareness raising campaign to encourage those with intellectual disability to use their vote, while in Australia, Inclusion Melbourne is supporting participation through easy-language materials and online campaign information. Similarly, ENABLE Scotland and the UK Electoral Commission are providing easy-read voting guides while also providing accessible hustings. Finally, Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan run group-study opportunities for persons with intellectual disabilities to learn about Swedish politics using easy-read material.

A young lady and a young man study voting guides while sat at a table

Voters studying easy-read voting guides in Scotland

The parallel session on inclusive voter information takes place on day 2 (21st February) of the Zero Project Conference 2019 in the main room M1 at 10:55 CET.

Online voting systems and tactile ballots

Alternatives to traditional voting systems are being implemented around the world to allow persons with different disabilities to vote, such as online ballots OmniBallot from Seattle-based Democracy Live which enables voting via computer, tablet or smartphone. Similarly, iVote from Barcelona-based Scytl enables Blind voters to vote via their smartphone in Western Australia.

A young man with a physica disability sat at a desk touching the computer screen

A man using an online touch-sccreen voting system from Democracy Live

An alternative for Blind voters is the use of tactile ballot papers, such as those from Boğaziçi University and the Association of Barrier Free Access in Turkey which allows voting for both those who can or cannot read Braille. In Georgia, the Central Election Commission has created tactile ballot guides which fit over standard ballot papers for Bind voters.

The parallel sessions on online voting systems and tactile ballots take place on day 2 (21st February) of the Zero Project Conference 2019 in room M3 at 16:25 and 17:15 CET respectively.

Banner - Awardees announced next week!

We’re almost there! The factsheets have been written, the report is being formatted and the printer is warming up. In just one week we’ll be able to reveal more than 70 projects that will be announced as Zero Project 2019 Awardees.

These projects have made it through a tough process including two rounds of scoring and reviewing by experts from around the world and have been whittled down from the 318 hopeful applicants that put their cases forward back in the summer.

Since you’ve been so patient, maybe we can give you a little teaser…

We are looking at support for Indigenous persons with disabilities in Canada, election study groups for persons with intellectual disabilities in Sweden, solar-powered hearing aids in Botswana, tactile ballot papers in Turkey and a very “Neate” box in the UK. Can you guess any of them?

2019 in Zero Project green with the Zero Project logo replacing the 0

A very happy new year from the Zero Project! All of us here wish you the best for 2019! What amazing things did you achieve in 2018? Let us know!

Let’s take a little time to reflect on what happened at the Zero Project in 2018. With the help of our incredible partners and friends around the globe we achieved more than we could have dreamed of. Some of our highlights are:

  • We hit our maximum capacity for the Zero Project Conference for the first time – We could never have imagined all those years ago that we’d actually have to be turning people away who wish to attend the conference. As much as we’d have liked, we just couldn’t fit any more innovators, leaders and policy makers into the 2018 Zero Project Conference!

    A large conference room, full of participants

    The main room is packed at the 2018 Zero Project Conference. ©Pepo Schuster, austrofocus.at

  • We introduced the Zero Project Impact Transfer – We partnered with our friends at Ashoka Austria who roped in experienced mentors and experts to help prepare ten Zero Project Awardees to build their models for replication around the globe, culminating in presenting on stage at the Zero Project Conference. Exciting news from some of those projects soon…
  • We grew our following on Facebook by 40% – Over 4,500 people now like the Zero Project on Facebook! Our Facebook videos were viewed over 75,000 times. For our small team, this is truly mind-blowing! Thank-you!
  • We awarded 68 practices and 15 policies – Possibly the most enjoyable part of our work. We were able to celebrate such a range of organisations and projects, from all around the world at the Zero Project Conference award evening.
  • We started two brand new side projects – An accessible IT academy in Vienna – An inclusive course for Cyber Security and Data Protection which is due for it’s first intake in early 2019, and, TOPHOUSE – A project with our partners from around Europe, which aims to support professionals to be inclusive and effective in the social housing system.

    Two people signing forms at an information desk in an event hall

    Interest in the Accessible IT Academy at an information event

  • We presented the Zero Project Anthem for the first time – The inaugural performance of the Zero Project Anthem took place in the rotunda of the United Nations in day 2 of the conference. And what fun it was. Check out the performance, along with 100 students of the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Thank you for being part of our journey in 2018.

Zero Project Snowman in green

It’s that time of year again. The Zero Project will take a little break and enjoy the holidays. And so should you too! We’ll be back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle final preparations for #ZeroCon19!  See you on the other side!

An empty row of chairs in a meeting room with a green Zero Project banner in the background

We are delighted to announce that the first-ever United Nations Report on Disability and Development has referenced Zero Project Innovative Practices and Policies 50 times. The report, released on International Day of Persons with Disabilities was published by, for, and with, persons with disabilities, in the hopes of fostering more accessible, and disability-inclusive societies. It provides direct links to the factsheets in the Endnotes section. Not only this, the report has included dedicated sections to outline examples of good practices, sharing in our passion for presenting solutions.

Secretary-General António Guterres said the report “shows that people with disabilities are at a disadvantage” regarding most SDGs, “but also highlights the growing number of good practices that can create a more inclusive society in which they can live independently”.

We are honoured that the United Nations has used the Zero Project as a source of so many good practices! This is the whole reason we exist – to find and share outstanding innovations with the world, in the hope they get recognition, support, opportunities to grow and replicate, and act as a source of inspiration. We also hope this shows what can happen when a project is selected as an awardee.

We will be contacting those former awardees who have been referenced in the report individually to celebrate their great achievements over the coming weeks. We’ll also be looking more deeply into the report to see what we can learn from it going forward. But before that, we just want to say a huge congratulations to all those who have been referenced. We are very proud of you all!

Shaking hands in front of a Zero Project banner

Here’s a little secret from the Zero Project – We selected our awardees back in October! I don’t know how we have kept the news to ourselves as we’ve been absolutely bursting to tell you about these incredible projects on the topic of Independent Living and Political Participation.

And they are…

Sorry, you will have to wait just a little bit longer! We’re still putting the finishing touches to the report and website to do justice to these outstanding projects.

A huge thanks to all the amazing people who have been working so hard to provide us with all their information, pictures and stories to allow us to share their projects with the world!

And thanks to everyone else for being so patient with us through this long process. We can assure you the wait is worth it!

Be part of the purple revolution

We at the Zero Project are going purple for International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Our Facebook and Twitter feeds will turn purple for the entire day as we join our good friends at Purple Space to celebrate the economic power of persons with disabilities across the globe.

Last year, major corporations and government buildings around the world lit up purple or flew a purple flag to join the cause. This year, organisations such as Fujitsu, PwC UK, Tesco, ASXChat and Santander have pledged to go purple in their own different ways.

Keep a lookout on social media for the many exciting ways that people are going purple by following #PurpleLightUp

Find out more at the Purple Space website.

A panel of experts at the Zero Project Conference

Creating the shortlist becomes tougher and tougher each year! Both for us, and for our network of close experts around the world. It is so sad to say goodbye to some of the incredible projects that had made it into the first stage of the competition. We sincerely hope to stay in touch with everyone and we will be watching the projects thrive from afar!

But in order to have winners, we must first have a shortlist – And what a shortlist we have this year! 152 incredible, inspiring practices and 21 innovative forward-thinking policies from 61 countries. We are excited by the range of topics and the geographical spread around the globe – from training decision-makers in Phnom Penh to supported housing models in Azerbaijan, and from personal ombudsman services in Sweden to free Legal Advice in Honduras. It really is inspiring to see so many dedicated people from all around the globe and from all walks of life working tirelessly to make things better for persons with disabilities!

Congratulations to all those who made it onto the shortlist. Regardless of what happens in the final stage, they will all have the opportunity to attend the Zero Project Conference and network with experts and leaders from around the globe as a recognition of making it to this stage.

We have now opened the voting for the final round, where the winners will be selected. Over 2,000 experts in the Zero Project network will be asked to undertake the unenviable task of sorting the excellent from the great, in order to select the projects to be awarded in February.

Find out more about where the projects come from by reading our shortlist press release.

Zero Project Logo

“I would highly recommend the Exceptional Lives Guides to all parents and caregivers of children with disabilities.”

My name is Jim Gibbons. My wife and I have two children (18 and 20). Katie, our youngest child, has been disabled her entire life. She is non-verbal, uses a wheelchair and is 100% dependent on others for all daily living tasks. As Katie approached the age of 18, I as a parent had a lot to do. We needed to apply for guardianship and get SSI for Katie. I had no idea where to begin. Luckily, I found out about Exceptional Lives and their free, easy-to-use Guides.

I was able set up an account and look over all the Guides that Exceptional Lives provided. I knew the Guardianship and SSI Guides were going to help us a lot. I was able to preview the processes and get an idea of what lie ahead. I really liked being able to download all of the forms needed and work on them at my own pace. I was able to go back and get more information when necessary, and the checklists kept me organized. After gathering all the required paperwork, the Guides walked me through the filing process.

We were successful at obtaining guardianship and getting SSI for Katie. Transitional ages like turning 18 are difficult on parents, but having supports like the Guides help to make it go a lot smoother. I would highly recommend the Exceptional Lives Guides to all parents and caregivers of children with disabilities.

Read more about the resources nad guides developed by Exceptional Lives by reading the factsheet.