The presentation of The Her Abilities Awards, a new award for ICT Innovation for Inclusion and a high-profile closing ceremony with more than 10,000 views by then. These were the highlights of day 3:

 

Due to the ongoing development of the Covid-19 pandemic in Austria, Rudolf Anschober, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection had to cancel his participation at the Zero Project Conference. At short notice the program was changed a bit and started with a brief session in German with Alexander Miklautz from the Austrian Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Christine Steger, Head of Monitoring Committee, Austria and Michael Pichler from Zero Project.

 

Also, the keynote of Robert Zadrazil, CEO of Bank Austria – a member of Unicredit Group in Austria – was moved forward. Bank Austria, whose studios at Kaiserwasser in Vienna the #ZeroCon21 was broadcasted, is quite exemplary in Austria when it comes to Inclusive Employment in Austrian corporate world. Zadrazil sees clear advantages that diverse organizations have and says: “I´m deeply convinced that diversity makes companies more resistant to any crisis , and that’s what we’ve been experiencing right now.“

 

Awards for strong women and inclusive IT innovations

The Her Abilities Awards, founded by Light for the World, are the first global awards to recognize the achievements of women with disabilities. Their presentation is a highlight of the closing event of the Zero Project Conference. But, because everything is different in times of social distancing and shutdowns, this year the award ceremony took place virtually, earlier than ususal, at 1 pm. And these are the laureates this year: Gamze Elibol, a pioneering theater director from Turkey; Bernice Oyeleke, educational leader, NGO founder and author promoting Deaf education in Nigeria; Robbie Francis Watene, a leading disability rights activist from Aotearoa, New Zealand. To learn more about the 2021 Her Abilities Award Winners, please click HERE.

 

For the very first time, the ICT Innovation for Inclusion Prize was presented. The Prize is an award for technological solutions that support the employment of people with disabilities in Chilean companies and a joint initiative of Pacto de Productividad Chile, IDB Lab, Fundación Descúbreme and the Zero Project. The chair was Catalina Saieh, President of Fundación Descúbreme. The award winners were Egalite Inclusion & Diversity from Brazil, EnableIndia – both also #ZeroCon21 Awardees – and Fundación ONCE from Spain, whose award-winning project to make products for adapting workplaces for people with disabilities with 3D support had been the content of a session in the morning.

 

More than 10,000 viewers were counted

In total, more than 4,000 people from all over the world had registered for #ZeroCon21 by Friday and more than 10,000 viewers were counted on all three days. Consequently, Martin Essl was able to sum up the event with great satisfaction in his closing speech: “The Covid-Virus brought the Zero Project Conference 2021 to a new level. The great outcome motivates us-a-lot for 2022 and the coming years.“

 

One of his plans is to develop the Zero Project Conference even more into a platform. Martin: „Our goal is to further develop the Zero Project as a Network of Networks, where ALL stakeholders are-involved.“ The “Ambassadors Circle“, which was organized for the first time and brought together 10 ambassadors in Vienna and the 21 award winners from their countries, was an important first step in this direction.

 

Speaking of ambassadors. The Zero Project also has ambassadors. New among these partners, who are strong allies of the Zero Project, and have supported and promoted this network is Nevgul Bilsel Safkan, Executive Director of Sabanci Foundation of Turkey.

 

Greetings and a look ahead to 2022

The President of the Austrian Parliament, Wolfgang Sobotka, after his invitation to the Parliament before the opening, did not miss the opportunity to address the closing ceremony as well. According to him the Zero Project Conference is „an indispensable key initiative for people with disabilities“. And for the upcoming Zero Project Conference theme “Accessibility,“ he promises to make the parliament, which will be renovated by 2022, a true role model.

 

For the 2022 conference, Victor Pineda, President of World Enabled and co-founder of the Cities4All Initiative, also joined in with a video message: “We are exited and proud that the Zero Project will take on the issue of accessible cities and accessibility next year.“

 

Finally, Carolina Rubia, Executive Director of Fundación Descúbreme, in her greeting message, raised hopes for an earlier meeting – later this year and perhaps even physically – by inviting everyone to come to Santiago de Chile from May 26 to 28. Rubia: “Make a note. we will be waiting for you.“

Being actively involved in an experiential journey with many others at once, 82 award winners in one session simultaneously and two premieres. These were the highlights of day 2:

 

“A warm welcome from snowy Vienna“ – Seema Mundackal from Zero Project summed it up well in her welcome speech. While outside the Bank Austria studio at Kaiserwasser in Vienna, icy temperatures and snowfall prevailed, more than 3,000 participants from all over the world and across all time zones had gathered online in front of their screens or devices to take part in this meeting dedicated to a world with Zero Barriers. Also, on the second day, an in-depth program was offered on three channels in parallel.

Truly inclusive leaders in CEO hour

Caroline Casey kicked things off on Channel 1 with her CEO Hour. Without her distinctive glasses, but just like the day before, she remotely checked in with: “I am still beside my washing machine here in Dublin.” According to her, inclusive employment cannot happen without inclusive business cultures. Casey: “And how do we create inclusive business cultures? We need inclusive leaders!“

So the founder of The Valuable 500 had invited two such inclusive leaders to join her. Steve Inghalm the Group CEO of Pagegroup – a recruitment service company and aka Michael Page – and Robert James, who was CIO of Adecco, a leading Human Resources provider until the end of 2019. Both are wheelchair users, due to sports accidents. Their own experience with disability has changed their approach to inclusion and made them strong advocates for the employment of people with disabilities.

Going beyond the limitations of the web

The possibilities in times of social distancing was demonstrated by Michal Rimon, CEO of Access Israel, with the “experiential session“ she organized. Those who dialed in via Zoom were not only able to interact with her, but also actively took part in the assigned tasks. For example, they were able to experience the barriers people with visual impairments face in an open-plan office. Online participants had to find their desk with their small coffee cup in various visual simulations. Those who managed to do so reported back via chat. Or as Michal summed it up: “in our session we want to go beyond talking, we want to create something.“

A kind of Zero-vision Inclusion Contest

Anna Königseder and Wilfried Kainz from Zero Project also wanted to explore the possible frontiers of the Internet. At 13.00 CET they invited ALL Zero Project Awardees to a joint meeting; and that was a total (an accumulation) of 82 Awardees from 49 countries around the globe. Ok, not everything worked out initially, but it was, as Wilfried put it: “a big hour of celebration!“ And when Anna called out: “Helsinki, please” or when from the other side of the world we could hear: “hola from Mexico”, it felt like being at a Eurovision Song Contest broadcast, but on a global scale. So to speak a Zerovision Inclusion Contest …

Did you miss it? No problem: “Live on screen: All the Zero Project Awardees 2021,“ and all of the other sessions will be available on-demand 15 minutes after airing. Just click here. And at zeroproject.org you can find and download detailed factsheets for all of the Awarded Innovative Practices and Policies from this year. Click here for the PRACTICES. Click here for the POLICIES.

Premiere for Enable Me and Seeing AI

On the 2nd day of #ZeroCon21 there were also two firsts. In the midday session, myHandicap from Switzerland presented the first online mentoring program for people with disabilities: EnableMe. The goal of the program is to build a bridge between employees and companies by supporting people who are preparing to enter or re-enter the workforce with mentors from companies. The session also featured a pre-recorded interview with Joachim Schoss, impact investor and founder of myHandicap.

And as a final highlight of day 2, there was a real film premier. The TV documentary “Seeing AI”, featuring Amy Dixon. She is a blind Paralympic athlete who is testing and using Seeing AI, a free app that recognizes the environment and describes it in words. The documentary was produced by TFA Group and the Zero Project. After the documentary’s first airing, Jeremy Snyder, CEO of TFA Group, and Amy Dixon joined studio host Michael Fembek for a discussion.

 

Almost 5,000 hits were counted on the first day of #ZeroCon21, which for the first time took place virtually, yet as accessible as possible for everyone! These were the highlights:

3, 2, 1 … Yesterday, shortly before 9 a.m. CET, tensions were high when the cameraman counted down the start of the 10th Zero Project Conference. As the anthem was being broadcasted, Martin Essl, founder of the Essl Foundation and the initiator of the Zero Project, together with Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Director-General of the UN Office at Vienna (UNOV), were already waiting in the studio for their signal for the official opening.

“Hello from besides my washing machine“

Seema Mundackal from the Zero Project and Paralympic swimmer and ORF presenter, Andreas Onea, took over the moderation. On all three days, they will guide visitors on Channel 1 through the 86-hour program of #ZeroCon21. After a brief introduction, they handed over to Caroline Casey, who has hosted the Zero Project Conference and has been its face since 2012.

In her always upbeat manner, the founder of the Valuable 500 called in from “her room next to my washing machine here in Dublin, Ireland.” Also, Caroline was particularly touched by the previously seen Zero Project Anthem this year, because according to her “the most important and powerful thing about Zero Project is our connection with each other around the world.“ And if maybe there is one part of this global pandemic – we now have three times as many people joining us online.” Caroline’s encouragement for the conference to all was to “use these three days to reach out to some of your Zero Project friends. Just to connect because that’s what we have been doing.”

A global forum for positive change

The Zero Project and the United Nations also have a close cooperation, as Ghada Waly, Director General of the UN Office in Vienna mentioned in her address “as a global forum for collaboration and a platform for positive change, the Zero Project also shares a higher purpose with the United Nations.”

Waly also echoed a core message of #ZeroCon21, with its focus this year on Employment and ICT for people with disabilities, saying, “inclusion is not only good, it’s good for business. The UN private sector and civil society must work together to support the innovators and leaders of today and tomorrow.”

Additionally, Gabriela Sellner, Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations in Vienna, emphasised the importance of the Zero Project in her video message “as a fantastic platform to think creatively about better ways forward.“

Almanach 2021: The complete Story to date

Martin Essl in his speech was proud to announce to the audience what has already been achieved, and documented in the freshly published Zero Project Almanac 2021. Martin: “this edition brings together ALL 662 awarded-Innovative Practices and Policies, back from 2013 including an Annex listing short-summaries of each Awardee. Essentially – we described the complete story to date!“

#ZeroCon21 focused on Employment and ICT

The best Innovative Practices and Policies took (virtually) center stage immediately afterwards: 82 nominations were honored this year on the topic of Employment and ICT. They will be presented during the three-day conference in a total of six Awardee Hours. On the first day the main focus was on those ten innovations that have been selected for the Zero Project-Impact Transfer Program. Find out who they are HERE.

Dreamers, keynotes and cutting-edge technologies

Among the other highlights of the first day: a session by Access Israel for dreamers who can imagine an inclusive society; the launch of Spawnpoint, an event series by a gaming agency Woop on accessible gaming; keynotes by Charlotte V. McClain-Nhlapo (World Bank Group) and Sofija Korać (US Mission to the United Nations); and the first session on cutting edge technologies with contributions from Guide me (Cisco), Lichtwerk (Belgium), Ask Tobi (Austria), Vem CA (from Escola de Gente, Brazil), Atvisor (Israel) and equalizent (Austria).

In Vienna it’s Always about Dancing

And as befits Vienna, the capital of waltz, the first day was rounded off with an invitation to dance by studio host Michael Fembek and remote guest Connie Vandarakis of Danceability from the USA. Michael in his invitation said, “I can really promise you, it’s unique, it’s a world premiere and it’s something you’ve never seen before.

The show was really unique, and you can see it again and again if you want. Every single session of the #ZeroCon21 will be available on-demand 15 minutes after it airs – just click here. It will be available for the next ten days. Following the conference, the Zero Project will launch a streaming platform. There, the entire conference will be available to stream for free – much like Netflix, it will be sorted by session, but also by topic.

We are thrilled to announce that the factsheets of our Zero Project Innovative Practices 2021 are online now!

We present you with factsheets from 66 Innovations from the employment sector and 16 Innovations in the field of ICT that are supporting persons with disabilities in 47 countries on our 2021 topic Employment and ICT.

The nominated projects cover a wide range of topics and solutions, such as inclusive employment strategies of companies, IT- based job platforms, supported employment services, social business and entrepreneurship, models on vocational support in higher education, inclusion consultancy services/trainings focusing on employers, and many more.

You can access the full list of innovative practices here:

https://zeroproject.org/practice-type/innovative-practices-2021-on-employment-and-ict/

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

The Zero Project Impact Transfer program is a partnership between the Essl Foundation, Fundación Descúbreme and Ashoka. It supports organisations to replicate and transfer their social impact and innovation in other countries and contexts and thereby ensure a world without barriers. The goal of the program is to help proven innovations to spread so that we do not have to reinvent the wheel.

Participating projects undergo a six-month program with expert strategic mentoring, training and assignments in topics to support scaling, such as impact and business modelling and benefit from connections to partner organisations across the Zero Project, Fundación Descúbreme and Ashoka communities

2020/2021 participants

We are delighted to announce the participants for this year’s Zero Project Impact Transfer program. Ten organisations from nine countries are taking part, all hoping to find the right partners to replicate their innovative employment and ICT initiatives globally.

myAbility (Austria) – myAbility’s Talent® Programe is a career programme for students and graduates with disabilities, providing them with training and connecting them to employers.

PFDA Vocational Training Center (Bangladesh) – personalised vocational training for adults with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy.

Egalite (Brazil) – online recruitment platform, incorporating a behavioural profile evaluation tool and free e-learning courses adapted for persons with disabilities.

JAMBA (Bulgaria) – supporting job seekers with disabilities through training and an online job platform, and assisting companies with recruitment and inclusion.

Seco Chile (Chile) – ecological car washing service employing a majority of people with disabilities

Helm (Egypt) – workplace inclusion consultancy services, including accessibility audits and job recruitment analyses

EnAble India (India) – free learning tool for visually impaired persons to improve their digital skills

Youth4Jobs Foundation (India) – College Connect programme, setting up Smart Inclusion Centres in colleges and universities, connecting students with disabilities to educators, employers, and government agencies.

DeafTawk (Pakistan) – mobile application which connects deaf users with certified sign language interpreters in real time through video calling

I Love Coffee (South Africa) – a chain of coffee shops run by Deaf young people

 

We will be sharing more detailed information about all these projects in the run up to the Zero Project Conference in February.

This is the fourth cohort of the Zero Project Impact Transfer program. 31 projects have taken part already and had the opportunity to present their innovations and pitch for potential replication partners at Zero Project Conferences in Vienna and Santiago de Chile. Previous participants have built on contacts made through the program to take forward replication in new countries around the world. For example, Gallaudet University from the US has replicated its VL2 Storybook Apps program in Turkey with the Sabanci Foundation and Boğaziçi University, while EnAble India is working on bringing its Enable Vaani project to Ethiopia and Mauritius. You can also visit the Zero Project Impact Transfer webpage for updates on previous years’ participants and this year’s cohort.

The Zero Project is very happy that this groundbreaking cross-border contact was established at #ZeroCon21 at the UN in Vienna earlier this year, which will hopefully lead to improvements for persons with disabilities on all sides. It also shows the strength of the community of people with disabilities and its potential to create new connections and solutions. Join the Webinar on Remote Employment of People With Disabilities here!

Read the full press release here

We are looking for a Project Manager who is available full time and willing to join a highly motivated team with worldwide outreach. Ideally someone who is ready to accept the challenges of a dynamic, fast-developing project. Our office is located in the center of Vienna, in the beautiful building of the old stock exchange.

Find a detailed job advertisement here.

After carefully reviewing the nominations in the last few weeks the final figures have now been counted! Once again, we have broken the record and received 475 practices, overhauling the record of 469 nominations from last year on the topic of Inclusive Education.

A huge thank you to everyone who has made a nomination. We are absolutely overwhelmed with the extraordinary range and quality of the projects and are thankful for the efforts of everyone who has nominated! A huge thanks also to those who are taking the time to help us review all the projects.

For the full details of what we received, read our nomination press release.

The Zero Project, and International Association of Accessibility Professionals: IAAP, a division of G3ict – The Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs, have come together to offer a series of free innovating webinars.
Through sharing best practices that are not only global, scalable and either free or at low-cost, we are hopeful these solutions can be used to speed up the process of implementing the United Nation Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities.
Each of these webinars will highlight best practices and solutions from the 2020 Zero Project Awards on Education and ICT – the first series will introduce you to Benetech, Fundacion Once and Scify.
Following the webinar series,  a publication, highlighting information about the innovation, resources, and insights from the webinar will be made available on the IAAP Educational Training Database

Benetech a US non-profit organization has made the start on June 24th, 2020 and presented their awarded practise Bookshare.

Bookshare is a global accessible virtual library for people with print disabilities. Available nationwide in the United States and in 87 other countries, Bookshare provides books and printed materials in five accessible formats, such as electronic Braille and DAISY synchronized text with audio, at a lower cost than traditional methods.

In case you missed the webinar, you can watch the recording here: https://youtu.be/GgP225XsV_M
We also invite you to join the discussion in our WhatsApp community
Stay tuned – more info coming soon!
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The Innovative Practices rightly get a lot of attention for their amazing work around the world to improve the lives of persons with disabilities. They also normally make up more than three-quarters of our awardees and show the incredible change that NGOs and businesses can create.

But what about the Innovative Policies? Why should policies be nominated and why are they so important?

Innovative Policies show how change can happen at a government level. They lead the way in showing what is possible locally, nationally or internationally. By sharing the best examples of policy changes in governments around the world that support people with disabilities it can inspire others to follow suit. It can also provide pressure to other governments to implement necessary and lasting change.

Each Zero Project Conference brings together decision-makers from governments and international organisations around the world, such as local government representatives, ministries, and elected officials such as members of the European Parliament. By bringing together some of the best voices on a national stage, other countries simply have to take note.

This is why it is so important for us to be able to share the greatest laws, regulations, grants, subsidies etc. that break down barriers for persons with disabilities.

We are looking for policies that make employment more inclusive for persons with disabilities.  This could be on international/supranational level, on a country level or also regional level, and normally only initiated by a public sector body – for example, a national or regional government, ministry, public sector agency.

We are also interested in inclusive employment strategies targeted at the public sector as an employer but also from trade unions working on inclusive employment, as their work often intersects with, upholds, or seeks to improve existing policy and legislative frameworks.

So help us to find the best policies that are creating lasting change. Tell us about them, or get in contact with your local politicians and decision-makers and encourage them to nominate their work for the recognition it deserves!

For more information, please go to our Zero Project Nomination Website