© Parlamentsdirektion/Thomas Topf


Im Vorfeld der Zero Project Konferenz 2020 fand am Dienstag, 18. Februar 2020, die parlamentarische Veranstaltung : Bildung – Inklusion – Digitalisierung auf Initiative des Nationalratspräsidenten Wolfgang Sobotka, der Essl Foundation und der Sinnbildungsstifter statt. Über 200 TeilnehmerInnen diskutierten technische Innovationen, wie Livox, Orcam, Sonokids, Speechgear und das Projekt Inklusive Bildung.

Hier geht’s zum Highlight Video!

Hier geht’s zu den Fotos der Veranstaltung!

Large group of people on and in front of a stage smiling for teh camera in front of two Zero Project logos.
Large group of people on and in front of a stage smiling for teh camera in front of two Zero Project logos.

©Pepo Schuster, austrofocus.at

Vienna 24th February 2020.

The second global Zero Project call for nominations on the topic of education for people with disabilities resulted in 468 nominations from 106 countries. The most innovative submissions were presented at the 9th Zero Project Conference which took place from 19th to 21st February 2020. More than 800 people from over 80 countries took part at the United Nations in Vienna, Austria, to discuss, exhibit and present models that support inclusive Education.

Over 30 conference sessions discussed inclusive education

Throughout the three days, more than 30 sessions, including presentations of innovations and specialised forums, discussed the many sub-themes of inclusive education. All sessions were recorded and will be shared on the Zero Project YouTube channel in the coming weeks.

Over 80 projects collected their awards

More than 80 Awardees were in Vienna in person to collect their award from Martin Essl at the dedicated award evening and gave their backstage comments to the waiting camera crews.

The videos were online on the Zero Project Facebook page within 24 hours of the ceremony and have been watched more than 60,000 times!


Kicking off the Zero Project Conference activities, five winners of the Zero Project Award had the opportunity on Tuesday to present their initiatives at the Austrian Parliament, a joint event organised by the President of the National Council Wolfgang Sobotka, the Essl Foundation and the Sinnbildungsstiftung on the topic of education, inclusion and digitalisation.

Zero Project Impact Transfer

This year for the third time, alongside our partners Fundación Descúbreme and Ashoka, we ran the Zero Project-Impact Transfer programme. Ten projects from nine countries are participating in this 6-month programme, consisting of training, mentoring and networking support to help them prepare to replicate their innovations in other countries and contexts. You can find out more about this year’s participants at http://impact-transfer.org/zero-project/

Youth Participation

For the first time the Zero Project officially introduced youth participation to the conference. Over the course of three days,12 youth advocates joined us on stage at the award ceremony and also played an integral part in our social media activities. In addition to that, the youth advocates discussed best practices and shared concepts, experiences and tools that have worked to increase Inclusive Education.

 Africa Forum, Start-Up Forum, ITU Forum and much more…

Among many other exciting sessions during the 3-day conference was the Africa Forum, which presented several successful inclusive education initiatives working in sub-Saharan Africa and discussed the challenges and opportunities for scaling and replicating these.

At the Start-Up Forum, one of the fast-paced sessions on Thursday, entrepreneurs pitched their technological solutions to a panel of experts from the corporate and impact investment world, who then provided thorough questioning and constructive feedback.

The ITU Forums interactive panel discussion explored the factors needed to build an ecosystem supporting innovative ICT accessibility solutions and the challenges and opportunities facing accessible ICT solutions.

Performances, Movies, Yoga, Light for the World/Bank Austria

Inclusive dance performances, an inclusive sunrise yoga session and a short movie provided diverse entertainment for the conference participants.

On Friday evening, everyone who still had energy left was invited to enjoy the closing event, a presentation of the HerAbilities Awardees, hosted by Light for the World together with the Zero Project and supported by UniCredit Bank Austria.


Stay tuned over the next few weeks while we bring you all the best bits from the Conference, with clips, photos and sessions soon to be available online!


For further information, please contact:


Michael Fembek

Zero Project, Director

Essl Foundation



Pages of the Zero Project Report

We are proud to introduce to you the Zero Project Report 2020!


After more than 9 months of extensive research, analysis and reporting, we are delighted to bring you our latest annual report, on this year’s topic Education.


Inside this report, you will find factsheets of the 75 Innovative Practices, and 11 Innovative Policies from 56 countries that support inclusive education solutions for persons with disabilities, along with personalised life stories from many of the projects. The report also introduces 10 new participants of the Zero Project Impact Transfer, in association with Ashoka, where projects are prepared for replication around the world, plus a section on the legal indicators by the WORLD Policy Analysis Center.


The report also includes a summary in easy language.


All the themes, topics and projects within this report will be discussed during the Zero Project Conference from 19th to 21st February 2020 at the United Nations in Vienna. You can watch the action from the Conference on the Zero Project website.



We are thrilled to announce that the factsheets of our Zero Project Innovative Practices and Policies 2020 are online now!

We present you with factsheets from 75 Innovative Practices and 11 Innovative Policies from 56 countries that support persons with disabilities on our 2020 topic of education.

These projects cover a range of topics including, assistive technology in schools and universities, inclusive education systems in low and middle-income countries, early childhood and pre-school programmes, legal and rights-based approaches to inclusive education, inclusive education programmes in museums and cultural institutions and many, many more.

Again, huge congratulations to every single one of these incredible organisations. We’re immensely honoured to be able to promote your amazing work!

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 #ZeroCon20! Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and see you in 2020!

A large open conference room full with people

We are pleased to announce the updated agenda for the 2020 Zero Project Conference on Education is now online! We have over 170 speakers already on the agenda, with more being added all the time. You can find the latest version at https://conference.zeroproject.org/agenda/.


The annual Zero Project Conference is the highlight of our year here at the Zero Project. It is an opportunity to celebrate all the innovations we discover during our annual research cycle, and to bring together global experts committed to a world without barriers for people with disabilities. Since our first conference, the accessibility of the conference has been a key focus of the Zero Project.

We want to make the Zero Project Confer­ence an example of ‘good practice’ in terms of conference accessibility, and every year we work to improve the fea­tures and measures we offer. In 2018, our accessibility partner Escola de Gente evaluated the accessibility of the Conference, and their recommendations were key to some of the improvements we trialled for the first time in 2019, such as live audio description for video material and making information available in easy-to-read formats. In 2019, we asked all participants for their feedback on the accessibility of the conference, and are using this feedback to introduce additional measures in 2020. We know we still have work to do, and we can only do this in collaboration with partners across our vast global network.


Cover of the Zero Project Conference Accessibility GuidelinesTo support this, we have decided to document our work on conference accessibility, in the hope that by being transparent and sharing our ideas, we will improve our own work in this area and support other organisations looking to do the same.

We are therefore publishing the Zero Project Conference Accessibility Guidelines. We have developed these guidelines in re­sponse to requests we have had from partners who want to make their own meet­ings and conferences more accessible. They are based on what we have learned through implementing new measures and receiving feedback.

“We hope these guidelines, based on our experiences and the insights of the Zero Project community, will be a helpful contribution to the discussion on conference accessibility. We look forward to continuing to share our work and learning from others to constantly improve the accessibility of the Zero Project Conference.”

Martin Essl, Founder of the Essl Foundation

In order to make this guide as practical as possible, we have concentrated on measures we have first-hand experience of implementing. We are aware that these guidelines therefore do not cover everything. We hope that people using these guidelines, or those who have expertise in the areas we have not included, will share their experiences and knowledge with us.

We are grateful to all the organisations who work with us to implement accessibility measures at the conference in Vienna and the wider Zero Project network for their support in doing this. We would also like to thank our accessibility partner Escola de Gente for their ongoing collaboration and support, and for providing a foreword to the guidelines.

“We support these guidelines as we want plural and non-discriminatory societies, in which persons with disabilities are not an exception, but an intrinsic part. We want inclusive and sustainable societies – also for humanity with disabilities.”

Claudia Werneck, Founder of Escola de Gente


Alongside these guidelines, we have also been developing a discussion paper on conference accessibility, which we will publish in early 2020. We will present the guidelines at the Zero Project Conference 2020 and are committed to col­lecting feedback and using this to improve both the accessibility at the Zero Project Conference and future editions of these guidelines. If you have any feedback or suggestions, please let us know at office@zeroproject.org.

Group of people smiling and posing in three rows facing the camera with Zero Project and Zero Project Impact Transfer banners behind them

The Zero Project Impact Transfer program is a partnership between the Essl Foundation, Fundación Descúbreme and Ashoka. It supports organisations to replicate their social impact and innovation in other countries and contexts. The goal of the program is to help proven innovations to spread so that we do not have to reinvent the wheel.

This year is the third year of the Zero Project Impact Transfer and our first year working in partnership with Fundación Descúbreme. 21 projects have already been through the program in the last two years and have presented their innovations and replication plans at the Zero Project Conferences in 2017 and 2018. You can watch a one minute round up of the Impact Transfer session at Zero Project Conference 2019 here.

Previous participants have built on contacts made at the Conference to take forward replication in a number of new countries around the world. Enable India (2018) is taking forward plans for replicating its mobile phone-based disability information service in Ethiopia, the Museum of Modern Art (2018) in the USA has run training on accessibility programs with cultural institutions in Germany, and Greta & Starks (2019) received impact investment following this year’s Conference to scale their app making cinema .

2019/20 participants

We are delighted to announce the participants for this year’s Zero Project Impact Transfer program. There are 10 participants from nine countries taking part, all hoping to find the right partners to replicate their innovative education initiatives globally. The participating projects range from early childhood projects through to vocational training programmes.

  • Amar Seva Sangam (India) – enabling access to early intervention therapy for children in India’s rural communities
  • Association for Shared Learning ELA (Bulgaria) – ‘One School For All’, offering schools a structured and systematic approach to making their policies and processes inclusive
  • capito Mecklenburg Vorpommern (Germany) – ‘New Ways to Art’, training people with disabilities to become museum guides
  • Humanity and Inclusion Senegal (Senegal) – a programme to identify, support and enrol primary-school aged children with disabilities and strengthen inclusive education in Senegal
  • inABLE (Kenya) – providing assistive technology computer labs in specialist schools for blind students in Kenya
  • KVPS (Finland) – ‘On the Verge of Adulthood’, a programme supporting transition from secondary education
  • Livox (Brazil) – alternative communication platform for people who cannot communicate verbally, or people with learning difficulties
  • Manzil Centre (United Arab Emirates) – a comprehensive education & vocational programme for people with disabilities, offering support from pre-education through to post-employment
  • Nayi Disha Resource Centre (India) – an online platform to empower parents of children with intellectual disabilities
  • Universidad Andres Bello (Chile) – a three-year vocational training programme for students with intellectual disabilities

We will be sharing more detailed information about all these projects in the run up to the conference in February. You can also visit the Zero Project Impact Transfer webpage for updates on previous years’ participants and this year’s cohort.

If you are interested in learning more about these innovations and how you could support their replication, please contact Paula Reid from the Zero Project team on p.reid@zeroproject.org.

Essl Foundation and Fundación Descúbreme are entering a long-term partnership to expand the Zero Project mission of a world without barriers to the Spanish-speaking community worldwide. Fundación Descúbreme is also joining forces in the accelerator program Zero Project-Impact Transfer and will organize an annual Zero Project Conference in Santiago de Chile.

Vienna/Santiago de Chile, 6th December 2019: Essl Foundation and Fundación Descúbreme are announcing a long-term partnership to expand the Zero Project mission of a world without barriers to the Spanish-speaking community worldwide. Essl Foundation maintains strategic leadership of the Zero Project in full consultation with Fundación Descúbreme. Essl Foundation operates and finances the annual conference in Vienna and Fundación Descúbreme operates and finances the annual conference in Santiago, both under the brand of the Zero Project.

The organisations are also joining forces with Ashoka to broaden the Zero Project Impact Transfer programme worldwide.

“To contribute to a world without barriers in the areas of education, employment, urban development and independent living /political participation we aim to reach many more people with disabilities through innovations in the future. In partnering with Fundación Descúbreme, the Essl Foundation is taking another step forward in achieving this goal in Spanish speaking countries and is very much looking forward to this cooperation!” – Martin Essl, Founder of the Essl Foundation

The Essl Foundation has been working on the topic of social inclusion for persons with disabilities and has accumulated extensive knowledge on four strategic topics. This knowledge can be used by organizations either in the public or private sector – currently facing new challenges for people with disabilities in Spanish-speaking countries. Therefore, we are very grateful for the opportunity and hope to have a fruitful partnership with the Essl Foundation, starting with the Zero Project Conference in Santiago.” – Carola Rubia, Executive Director of Fundación Descúbreme


Essl Foundation and Fundación Descúbreme will co-publish the Zero Project Report in Spanish Language, will launch a Spanish-speaking website and open a news channel in Spanish. Most importantly, Fundación Descúbreme will organize the Zero Project-Latin America Conference annually, starting in early May with the topic of education.


A great opportunity to build a world without barriers, starting in February in Vienna and in May in Santiago with the topic of education.



For further information, please contact:

Michael Fembek Carola Rubia Durán
Director of the Zero Project Executive Director Fundación Descúbreme
Essl Foundation Fundacion Descubreme
m.fembek@esslfoundation.org carola.rubia@descubreme.cl


Logos of TOPHOUSE and the EU, with text: Co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union

It’s done! The TOPHOUSE project is officially ending on 30 November 2019. But it does not mean we stop here. The outcome is very promising, the tools will lead their own lives, and we will continue to inform and support the TOPHOUSE community!



TOPHOUSE is a project that aims to define the competences of professionals in the assessment, housing and support/care sector to strengthen their ability to:

FOSTER INCLUSION and RESPECT for human rights of persons at risk at exclusion, particularly persons  with disabilities


WORK MORE EFFECTIVELY and CONSTRUCTIVELY with complex needs of service users


What have we achieved?

7 partners from 6 EU countries have joined forces  to produce:

A STUDY on promising practises in integrated housing and support that provides an overview at European Level


  • Assessment of individual rights and needs
  • Individual needs and allocation of housing
  • Support needs assessment
  • Developing cross-sectoral cooperation

A TRAINING COURSE aimed at providing guidance on acquiring, delivering and assessing learning outcomes and materials developed.

COUNTRY SPECIFIC PRODUCTS (Austria, Finland, Ireland, Spain) consisting of localised and own language versions of all the previous TOPHOUSE products.


All TOPHOUSE products will be available soon here and on the EASPD website – stay tuned!


This project was co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union