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.

A photo of Imran Ganchi

“Instead of helping persons with disabilities to walk, we should teach them how to stand on their own.”

My name is Imran Ghanchi, and as a post-polio affectee, I have been working with NOWPDP since 2012, currently working with their External Engagement department. However, earlier I was a part of NOWPDP’s Rickshaw Project, where we pioneered the design for retrofitted rickshaws for people with lower limb impairments.

During my childhood, I never wanted my parents to treat me any differently than my other siblings due to. After 9th grade I had to leave my education due to lack of accessibility at my school, however, I still managed to get training and excel in different trades such as, plumbing and auto-mechanics. Despite being professionally sound, people, organizations and shops wouldn’t hire me because of my disability and this would leave me demotivated and disheartened.

This is where NOWPDP came in. I came across NOWPDP while searching for jobs and was able to join them through the Rickshaw Project, further developing my skills and working towards an inclusive society. NOWPDP’s model accessible workplace helped me to move around independently and unhindered, allowing me to complete any task as well as anybody else at work.

The chance to work at a barrier free organization has been comforting, while the ease has helped me enhance my skill, all the while boosting my morale and sporting my positive outlook on life.

Read more about how NOWPDP is supporting businesses in creating accessible workplaces and infrastructure by reading the factsheet.

Zero Project Logo

Inclusion in action: Jack shows students what’s possible with Office 365, a screen reader and a keyboard

When a sighted person walks into Jack Mendez’s classroom, one of the first things they notice is a workstation without a screen. For Jack, this is a striking example how far assistive technology has advanced.

“I have a computer without a screen, and that’s intentional because I want people to understand that all you need is a keyboard and some headphones.” said Jack. “You can produce and consume content and use the computer and navigate just with the screen reader and your keyboard.”

As the Director of Technology at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, Jack is in charge of the school’s IT systems and the software used to prepare students for life outside of school. When you enter his classroom, you discover a flurry of activity. Jack deployed Office 365 on all the school’s workstations. “It’s the best that’s out there. If you find something better, let me know.”

Students manage their calendars and access email through Outlook. They use OneNote to take notes and access them across multiple devices. Jack is a big advocate for the use of Office 365 built-in accessibility checker to make content more inclusive, saying,

“It’s just something that it makes sense to click on. It takes a second, and a lot of times for most recommendations that the tool produces, it’s like a five-second fix.”

If students want to know how to perform a task in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, they use Office 365’s Tell Me feature and ask how it’s done. The answers are quickly provided. For Jack, these accessible technologies are a game changer for him and his students.

“I can now open up Excel or PowerPoint or Word and I can produce content that someone across the world would look at and never know a blind person had a role in that production. It be just as appealing, just as in-depth as anything else someone with no disabilities could have produced.”

Jack says that students want to come to the school for technology classes because they see how productive you can be if you have good training and understand how the tools work.

“My hope for all of my students is that they’re able to use technology to make their lives better. Many of them go on to college. A lot of them start working. Some of them already have careers and they’re using this time to enhance their ability to be more independent at their current job.”

In addition to working with students, Jack shows companies the ways that accessible technologies can enable them to expand their workforce and employ more people with disabilities, like blindness. During a recent demonstration he did for some local bankers generating a visual presentation on a computer without a screen, he opened up Office and started producing a document.

“I wrote some things, I changed some fonts, I saved the document all using the keyboard, all without a screen.”

Since that demonstration, some of his students have earned employment with those same bankers. Jack serves as an example of how to personalize and maximize the use of technology. He says he was always curious as a child. When he got in touch with computers, he realized this meant even more stuff to explore. During a routine visit to his dentist at age 15, Jack overheard staff talking about a problem with the computer. When he told the dentist he could fix it, the dentist hesitated before he gave him a chance. Jack repaired the computer and earned $500. The dentist then recommended him for other jobs, and that was the birth of his career in IT.

Jack’s hopes that accessible technologies become a given in the future, which he believes will make life and business better for everyone.

“When I’m able to help a business understand that when you make a hiring decision with someone who’s had good training that they’re going to help the entire company,” he said.

As for teaching? “It’s about helping a student understand what’s possible.”

Learn more about Microsoft’s comprehensive accessibility strategy by reading the factsheet.