Retrospective of the Zero Project Conference 2015

With close to 500 participants from more than 70 countries and with 35 events, workshops and panels, engaging more than 150 speakers and chairs, the fourth Zero Project Conference 2015 on Independent Living and Political Participation was truly a big success!

Once again at the United Nations Office in Vienna!

For the second time, this Zero Project Conference was held at the United Nations Office in Vienna, this time from 25 till 27 February 2015. Visit the conference page for more general information.

Celebrating 50 innovations from around the world…

All Zero Project 2015 Awardees.

All Zero Project 2015 Awardees.

On the first evening we kicked off with the first Zero Project Award Ceremony held at UNOV! All our 50 Innovative Practices and Innovative Policies were highlighted and received an award certificate from Martin Essl, Founder and Chairman of the Essl Foundation, and Jakob von Uexkull, Founder and Chairman of the World Future Council.

As well, on the occasion of our first Zero Project Award Ceremony, we produced especially a video clip highlighting all 50 innovations featured in the Zero Project Report 2015 on Independent Living and Political Participation. It is available at our YouTube channel, or you can click on this link!

Photos from the ceremony, and the conference in general, can be found in our website’s Download section.

Everyone could participate: Live web stream, accessibility…

Around the world, people could follow the sessions of the conference held in the Plenary Hall M01 via our captioned live web stream, provided by Verbavoice (Zero Project Innovative Practice 2014).

Besides simultaneous translation in English, German and Russian, we provided International and German Sign Language interpretation, as well as Captioning in English and German – to name a few of the excellent access features of this year’s conference!

jkrWith the social media hashtag #‎ZeroCon15, participants could share their news and highlights of the conference with all others on Facebook and Twitter, like this one for example:

“You are never too old nor too blind to code! @BarclaysAccess @Digitaleagles teaching how! #ZeroCon15”.

Even VIPs like J.K. Rowling took the time to tweet about the #ZeroCon15, congratulating Georgette MULHEIR and the Lumos Foundation, on their Zero Project Award via Twitter:

“So proud of Lumos and Georgette Mulheir tonight! #ZeroCon15 Read why I founded @lumos here

35 events, workshops and panels …

The numerous conference sessions covered a broad range of topics concerning independent living and political participation, from supported decision-making; to community living; innovative assistive devices; the right to vote for everyone; the accessibility of voting and electoral processes; and self-empowerment, amongst others, ensuring that each participant could gain insights and satisfy his or her interests in the best possible way.

All presentations can be found in our website’s Download section.

Opening Keynotes

After the welcome address by H.E. Christine Stix-Hackl and interview of Martin Essl, Jakob von Uexkull and Lourdes Marquez, the conference kicked off with the opening keynote speeches held by Ms. Daniela Bas from UN DESA; Mr. Facundo Chavez-Penillas from the OHCHR and Mr. Javed Abidi from Disabled Peoples International. Its concept notes can be found here and here.


The Lumos Approach: How De-institutionalisation works in Eastern Europe

This session provided an overview of the main ingredients for a successful de-institutionalisation programme in Eastern Europe. Children from three countries shared their thoughts on de-institutionalisation and the importance of self-advocacy. Find out more here.

Lumos Foundation, Martin Essl (Essl Foundation), Jakob von Uexkull (World Future Council)

Worldwide Data and Statistics on Independent Living and Political Participation

The whole issue of data collection is of utmost importance. This session provided an overview of the worldwide data and statistics on Independent Living and Political Participation of persons with disabilities.

The Personal Assistance Budget

Personal assistance, inspired by the Independent Living philosophy, is to enable individuals to customise services according to their particular needs, with maximum of control over everyday life. Read more about our Innovative Practices and Policies examples which were highlighted during this session: Sweden, Belgium, Norway and Spain. Its concept note is available here.

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Technology and Software that support Independent Living

Organised in cooperation with Barclay’s Bank, this session was dedicated to technology and software. Thanks to technological innovations, for example adapted hardware and software, the lives of persons with disabilities can be and have been improved. The essence of this session was to explore what is needed and desired, and what solutions are already on the market and can be adopted to local needs and requirements. Discover the Innovative Practice from the United Kingdom for example.

The Barometer of Inclusion: A comparison of Independent Living in Austrian provinces

During this session the Barometer of Inclusion was presented. This barometer compares the situation on independent living in all 9 Austrian provinces. The initiative carried out by Inclusion Austria, was supported by the Zero Project.


Service Providers & How Change Can Be Successful

One of the key issues to make de-institutionalisation happen, is that service providers need to change mentality and their way of business. This was the focus of this interactive session. Read the key outcomes and explore the presented Innovative Practices from Australia and Ireland. Its concept note can be found here.

Voting and Elections in the Global South

Different practices which are improving the inclusiveness of voting and election procedures in the Global South, were presented and discussed during this session. Read more about the Election Access Programme from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) – one of our this year’s partners – and the way they deal with this in Nepal, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

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Independent Living for Everyone: Innovative Strategies of Cities, Regions and their Networks

The concept of Independent Living involves a series of aspects of municipal and regional policymaking. Cities, regions and their international networks therefore play a crucial role in shaping the process that enables persons with disabilities, the elderly and other vulnerable groups to lead an independent life and to thus construct more inclusive societies. Therefore, there was an interactive discussion in working groups organised at the conference. Its concept note is available here.

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Supported Decision-Making

One of the key steps to achieve more inclusion of persons with disabilities is to provide them with the necessary support to enable them to make their own decisions. This way, persons with disabilities can exercise control over decisions concerning their own lives. This support can take many forms, be it through a personal ombudsman or through a support network consisting of family, friends and experts. The concept note of the session can be found here.

Peer Support Models for Austria

Peer support occurs when similarly affected people provide knowledge, experience or emotional, social and practical help to each other. Peer support is distinct from other forms of social support in that the source of support is a peer and their relationship is one of equality. In Upper Austria, Peer Counselling was officially approved as a social profession, read more about it here.

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Corporate Strategies Supporting Employment and Inclusion

Not only is there a clear ethical rational for companies to have inclusive employment policies and accessible workplaces, but there is also a clear business case. As we explore independent living, understanding what multinationals are doing to foster inclusion is vital, as work is one of the most effective ways of helping people with disability to escape poverty and social exclusion, and instead, lead independent and fulfilling lives.

Consultation: Technology and Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DiDRR) – Organised by SCRPD/DSPD/UNDESA

Persons with disabilities face higher risks and are disproportionately affected by disasters and emergency situations. The objective of this consultation was to contribute to the upcoming third World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Sendai, Japan (14-18 March 2015) through bringing together contributions of leading global experts in technology, disability and development to the on-going work for a disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction framework.

How Disaster Risk Reduction and Fire and Life Safety is Disability-Inclusive

This session discussed how disaster risk reduction and fire and life safety can be disability-inclusive. The overall objective was to raise awareness about the right to safe egress for all persons with disabilities by providing examples of good practices.

New Professions for Persons with Disabilities

This session aimed at exploring the potential of new professions in which disability is a unique qualification.

“Alles Walzer” – It was Waltz season in Vienna!!

190202920_IMG_0097On the second night a Special Evening Event entitled “Alles Walzer” – Waltz for All was organized in cooperation with Bank Austria and Light for the World. The highlights of this evening were the different performances, like the high-level-class wheelchair dance couple Brigitte Kröll and Werner Kaiser as well as the inclusive dance company “Ich bin O.K.”. Furthermore, MoZuluArt and AMBASSADE String Quartet provided a wonderful entertainment in form of live music, an ultimate combination of classical with African music. After the welcome words from Martin BACHL from UniCredit Bank Austria, H.E. Peter LAUNSKY-TIEFFENTHAL from the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, and Franz-Joseph HUAINIGG, Member of the Austrian Parliament, an interview was conducted with Johanna MANG from Light for the World and Michael FEMBEK of the Essl Foundation.

New Models for Community-based Living

In this session Innovative Practices 2015 that can serve as new models for community-based living were presented. Find out how community-based living is being handled with in Belgium, Croatia, Israel and Italy.

Self-empowerment and Political Participation in Austria

Innovative Practices 2015 that tackle the issue of self-empowerment and political participation of persons with disabilities were presented. The practices use different ways and methods to empower persons with intellectual disabilities as self-representatives, to support their efforts to speak for themselves, to organize themselves, to learn about their rights, to take part in public life and finally also to participate in politics.
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The Right to Vote for Everyone

The right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights when it comes to political participation. In most of the countries worldwide, persons with intellectual disabilities and mental health problems are deprived of their legal capacity, which results in severe restrictions of their enjoyment of human rights, including their right to vote. However, in a few countries activists succeeded in abolishing partially or entriely those restrictions, for example in Japan and in Croatia. Concept Note

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Self-empowerment and Self-representation

Successfully advancing self-empowerment and self-representation of persons with disabilities was the subject of this session. Practices from Our New Future (Belgium), Onafhankelijk Leven vzw (Belgium), Socialstyrelsen (Denmark) and the Organization of American States were presented.
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How to Support Candidates and Political Representatives with Disabilities

For a long time persons with disabilities remained excluded from political decision-making bodies, which in turn reinforced their exclusion through the absence of policies favouring them. The right to access elected offices and to be able to join and perform work in such positions, without discrimination, is a fundamental one. In the United Kingdom, persons with disabilities have access to a fund, while in Uganda there is a system of reserved seats and in South Africa equal access for Members of Parliament is ensured. Concept note
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International Peer Support Models: Empowering Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities often rely on different kinds of support. Moreover, they might have rarely the opportunity to exchange information and opinions with their peers. Peer support has been and still is one of the most important tools to empower persons with disabilities. Different practices & policies were highlighted during this session, such as the ones from Upper Austria, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom (Disability Rights UK, Scope and SPECTRUM). Concept Note

Towards Accessible Elections and Voting Processes

Electoral processes constitute the basis of democratic decision-making. Their accessibility plays a fundamental role for the inclusion of persons with disabilities and their influence on future policy-making. However, many barriers exist. That is why this session highlighted some Innovative Policies and Practices which might serve as an example, such as the ones from Inclusion Europe, AustraliaFinlandNew Zealand and Spain. Concept Note

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New Concepts and Ideas for Living in the Community in Austria

New concepts for living in the community served as the basis to exchange ideas and to learn about the most recent developments in this area. Panellists from Germany and Austria presented their work – Innovative Practices came, among others, from VbA Selbestimmt LebenMobile – Selbstbestimmtes Leben Behinderter e.V. and Rhein Main Inklusiv e.V.

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Solutions from the Global South

The session highlighted different practices coming from the Global South, dealing with various topics in their own specific and unique way. The presented practices came from Jamaica, Papua New Guinea and South Africa.

UNDP’s Approach to Addressing Disability: From Normative Standards to Partnership and Programming

This session, organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), provided participants with a better insight on the disabilities approach of UNDP which address for example protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, promoting the ratification and implementation of the CRPD, enhancing access to justice for people with disabilities, and improving the position of persons with disabilities in the labour market.

The Dynamics between Major International Development Stakeholders’ Disability Programmes, Resources and Respective Roles

This plenary explored the dynamics between major international development stakeholders’ disability programmes, resources and their respective roles.
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Women’s Empowerment

Women still face various degrees of discrimination, even more so women with disabilities. In this session three practices were presented in order to inspire others to follow their lead. One of the presented practices was the Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability program of MIUSA as well as the Sexual Abuse Victim Empowerment programme from South Africa and Yemen’s practice of employment and inclusion of rural girls with hearing impairments.J2 - 27.2. - 15.00_3

Final Plenary: Zero Project 2015 & 2016 – The Way Forward

ZPC2015 068To conclude our fourth conference, the final plenary brought together recommendations from the different sessions and provided an outlook on the way forward. After intense debates, with lots of inspiring people, participants were invited to join with their reflections upon what has been presented and discussed, and to explore how they personally could help to promote one or more of the presented solutions, beyond this gathering. Participants also received a glimpse on what the Zero Project Team will be working on in the coming months.

Recognition of the Zero Project’s work

Essl Foundation/APA-Fotoservice/HörmandingerThe whole Zero Project Team was nicely surprised when on the morning of the second conference day Mukthar AL-SHIBANI, President, and Betty DION, Founder and past President, of the Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES) honoured us with their Award of Recognition, which recognizes the project’s leadership in providing the platform for the exchange of ideas and best practices, and for facilitating the on-going global implementation of the UN CRPD. Thanks to GAATES, we will certainly do our best to keep up the good work!!

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Get your copy of the Zero Project Report 2015

The Zero Project Report 2015 can be downloaded here and our website allows for browsing its different sections: Innovative Practices and Innovative Policies as well as Social Indicators. As well, the report was printed for the occasion of our conference. A few hard copies can still be ordered at the head office in Vienna: office[at]

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