Retrospective of the Zero Project Conference 2016

With 516 participants from more than 70 countries and with 35 sessions, engaging 198 speakers, the Zero Project Conference 2016 on “Inclusive Education and ICT” was a great success and the climax of 5 years of collective efforts.

Moreover, the event was hosted once again by the United Nations Office in Vienna from 10 till 12 February 2016 – our special thanks therefore go to UNOV and the Austrian Ministry of European and International Affairs for their great support. Visit the conference page for detailed information on programme, speakers biographies, etc.

Celebrating 98 innovations from around the world…

All Zero Project 2016 Awardees.

One of the highlights was as usual the Zero Project Award Ceremony, which celebrated all 98 Innovative Practices and Innovative Policies with an official award certificate from Martin Essl, Founder and Chairman of the Essl Foundation, and Jakob von Uexkull, Founder and Chairman of the World Future Council.

For the occasion we produced a video clip telling about the success story of some of our past pratices and policies, and how things changed for them since they received the Zero Project Award.


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Have a look at our YouTube channel for more!

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

Everyone could participate: Live web stream, smartphone app, accessibility…

Around the world, people could follow the conference via our captioned live web stream, provided by Verbavoice, a Zero Project Innovative Practice 2014.

We also created a special networking smartphone app for all participants:

A private Social Network for our attendee!

A private Social Network for our attendees!

Everyone could send personal messages, post comments and pictures in a common activity feed, take notes, browse the programme, the presentations and the speakers, and much more! With 240 active users, more than 5,000 visits in 3 days, close to 70 pictures and comments posted, and 3 times more messages sent, it was a great success and add-on!

In terms of accessibility, we provided for instance for International Sign Interpretation, as well as Captioning in English – to name a few of the excellent access features of this year’s conference.

Samuel Kochs




With the social media hashtag #‎ZeroCon16, participants could share their news and highlights of the conference with all others on Facebook and Twitter, like this one from Charlotte McClain Nhlapo from the World Bank, for example:

We need stronger links between sustainable design & universal design.@McNhlapo #‎ZeroCon16

We also grabbed the attention of the Austrian daily newspaper Der Standard (on the right). And German actor Samuel Koch delivered a wonderful and very personal speech (on the left).

Also our immense gratitude goes to Judith Heumann, whose keynote speech inspired everyone and moved many of us.
Have a look at the interview of her visit just below !


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35 events, workshops and panels …

The numerous sessions covered a broad range of topics concerning inclusive education and ICT, from access to early childhood intervention, inclusive primary, secondary and tertiary education, inclusive education in emergencies, inclusive vocational training to anti-bullying and antiviolence strategies, changing attitudes with the help of advocacy campaigns, making learning materials accessible, non-formal education, e-learning tools, innovative communication devices, train the trainer, and the role of e-accessibility standards, amongst others.

Presentations can be found in our website’s Download section.

Reports & key messages from selected sessions

Official Opening CeremonyOpening ceremony

The opening ceremony was transformed into an energizing welcome by moderator Caroline Casey (Ability Awards, Ireland). Welcome speeches were delivered by H.E. Christine Stix-Hackl, Permanent Representative of Austria at the UN in Vienna, and H.E. Manfred Pallinger, Austrian Vice Minister, Ministry of Social Affairs, Labour and Consumer Protection.

Thereafter, Martin Essl, the founder of the Essl Foundation and Jakob von Uexkull, the founder of the World Future Council, welcomed the audience.

A moving opening keynote speech was then delivered by Judy Heumann, who is currently the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S Department of State. Her powerful message as well as her own personal experience underlined the importance of an inclusive education system.

Plenary Session on Inclusive Education

After the official opening ceremony and the keynote by Judy Heumann (see the video above), this session “leveled the field” regarding the basics of Inclusive Education, by looking at its past, its present and the future. The format was quite original, similar to a TV or radio talk show, conducted by Michael Fembek, Director of the Zero Project.

As you can see on the pictures below, even the format of our plenary sessions were innovative!

Plenary IE

Policymaker Forum on Inclusive Education and ICTs

With its broad and international scope and with policymakers coming from different countries and continents, this session was a forum for exchange of recent, innovative and successful approaches that advance inclusive education and accessible ICT, of the most serious bottlenecks that hamper progress, and of the value of international treaties and agenda, such as the CRPD and the SDGs, to that end. Jakob von Uexkull, Founder of the World Future Council, reported the following key messages from participating policymakers:

  1. States should begin with fostering values and beliefs, mobilize civil society support (Canada), then go all the way – inclusive education in Spain required a Supreme Court decision. They should include all stakeholders and focus on the individual (San Marino).
  2. States should do and learn from pilot projects, e.g. for textbooks for visually impaired in mainstream schools (UK), work across government departments and prioritize engagement and celebration over assessment (Ireland).
  3. States should recognize that good policies require investments in infrastructure and capacity-building and public understanding (Jordan).
  4. They should ensure that reforms can survive crisis situations and political changes by providing legally enforceable national rights (Greece and USA).
  5. They should include all ages and areas and foster citizenship, making people proud of pioneering policies (South Africa). Their is a need for continuous education about the benefits of zero barriers and diversity in order to make these values mainstream (Serbia).

Discussions also pointed 3 barriers: the world is becoming more intolerant, their is a lack of data to build indicators on, and their is the issue of ICT development in minority languages. Finally, the explicit inclusion of the rights of persons with disabilities to qualitative education in the UN Sustainable Development Goals was praised.

Policy forum

Statistics, Indicators and the Sustainable Development Goals

At this session various issues of disability-related data collection were discussed, with a view to the indicators measuring progress in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the results from the Zero Project Social Indicators 2016 from 129 countries. Amelie Saupe, the Zero Project’s Japan representative, reported to the final plenary the following five key points from this session:

  1. Measurement and monitoring are key for knowing whether progress is being made or not.
  2. A strong will at the national level is important for the empowerment of persons with disabilities, also in regards to data collection and statistics.
  3. SDGs are a real opportunity for persons with disabilities.
  4. SDGs highlight to not leave anyone behind and they are a great improvement with regards to the MDGs.
  5. Data collection needs to be improved to make sure everyone is included and each person and child is counted in.

One of our Innovative Practices 2016 was also presented: Developing indicators for Inclusive Education in the Pacific region, by Krongold Centre, Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia.

Indicator 8 map

Inclusive early childhood intervention and education

From this session that was dedicated to inclusive early childhood intervention and education, Luk Zelderloo, EASPD, reported the following key messages:8.2 Early Childhood Intervention

  1. All interventions should be based on a human rights approach. In many countries we still see a medical approach.
  2. Early childhood intervention is about the child, but should also empower the family, be flexible and work holistic, with a life-cycle approach: transition phases are crucial.
  3. All stakeholders at the table! Authorities, families, support providers, local community. Shared ownership leads to better strategies and interventions.
  4. Technology can contribute a lot to communication, it is key in early detection of problems.
  5. Listen to the children themselves and develop tools to do that in a meaningful way.

In that session 5 Innovative Practices were presented:

Creating communities for early childhood interventions by ASOPIECAD, Nicaragua
Transforming special schools into Support Centres by Medical Committee Netherlands-Vietnam (MCNV), Vietnam
Low-cost technology for young people with vision impairment by Nhat Hong Center for the blind and visually impaired, Vietnam
Giving a voice to children with disabilities by Deakin University, Australia
Creating inclusive pre-school institutions by Save the Children International, Kosovo

Inclusive education models in Asia

This session had a geographic focus, like two other sessions (on Africa and on Eastern Europe), and was dedicated to inclusive education models in Asia. Mohammed Ali Loutfy, DPI Arab World, reported 5 key recommendations therefrom:

  1. Governments, international organizations and DPOs must take substantial and systematic measures for combating barriers, poverty, stigma, and the lack of governmental commitment.
  2. DPOs efforts and their significant role must be considered.
  3. Global North Organizations must maintain a strong partnership with those in the Global South for ensuring and promoting practices and standards of inclusive education in Asia.
  4. The systematization of inclusive regular and vocational education must be perceived as an essential step for ensuring socio-economic development for Asian countries.
  5. Inclusive education programmes should no longer face scarcity of resources for ensuring their sustainability.

In total 4 Innovative Practices were presented:

Inclusive Education for Cambodian children who are blind or deaf by Krousar Thmeym Cambodia
Creating a role model of Inclusive Education by Plan International, Bangladesh
A holistic approach towards Inclusive Education in Bangladesh by Leonard Cheshire Disability, Bangladesh
Guidelines and toolkits to promote fully accessible schools by Samarthyam, National Centre for Accessible Environments, India

Inclusive education models in Africa

Like the session dedicated to Asia, this session focused on Innovative Practices and Policies that have been successful in making the education systems more accessible and inclusive for all children, including those with all types of disabilities, in African countries.

Creating a role model for Tanzania by Add International, Tanzania Country Programme, Tanzania
Inclusive school systems rolled-out in Zimbabwe by Leonard Cheshire Zimbabwe Trust, Zimbabwe
Inclusive Education in local communities in Zimbabwe by Jairos Jiri Association, Zimbabwe
Itinerant Teachers deliver Inclusive Education in Togo by Handicap International, UK/Togo
Multi-stakeholder approach towards Inclusive Education in Burkina Faso by Ocades Tenkodogo, Light for the World, Burkina Faso
Inclusive Education rolled-out throughout Ghana, Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Service, Ghana

257_GHA_Inclusive Education Rolled Out in Whole Ghana_POL_Photo1

Inclusive education models in Eastern Europe

An increasing number of countries are introducing legislative reforms to realize inclusive education and de-institutionalization. In this session 3 Innovative Practices 2016 from Eastern Europeann countries were presented. Most of them have advanced inclusive education on big scale.

Training the teachers and their trainers in Inclusive Education, by Bridge of Hope, Armenia
From hidden children to Inclusive Education in the Ukraine, by the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies, Ukraine
Assistive technologies and teacher traning in mainstream schools, by Open the Windows, Macedonia

Inclusive and quality education models

20160211_165310This session was dedicated to innovative models that have been successful in making the education systems more accessible and inclusive for all children, including those with all types of disabilities. From this workshop that presented 3 Innovative Policies 2016 from countries that are in the lead of creating inclusive education systems and 3 Innovative Practices 2016, Klaus Lachwitz, Inclusion International, reported the following key messages:

  1. Pioneer countries can serve as examples for inclusive education, like Italy (less than 1%  segregated disabled students) and Canada (where segregated education is illegal).
  2. Analysis of policy frameworks are needed and legally-binding policy should set out clear and easy to follow requirements for all public schools (USA).
  3. Comprehensive reports on pupils’ individual needs, specifically by focusing on their strengths, should be provided to teachers (Belgium).
  4. Students should remain in their social environment and go to mainstream schools, provided with assistive technologies and specific support teams (Spain).
  5. Brazil set up a model policy that includes continuous cash benefits to help schools to locate out-of-school children with disabilities and to enrol them in school (Brazil).

Inclusive education in emergency and refugee situations7.3 Inclusive Education in Emergency Situations

Education for all children has been referenced in the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on the Right to Education in Emergency Situations of 2010, which made the provision of education in emergencies mandatory worldwide. From this session featuring Innovatives Practices and Policies providing inclusive education in emergencies, refugee camps, post-war instability and post-disaster situations, Laura Davison, INEE, and Ingrid Lewis, EE-Net, reported the following key messages:

  1. Education For All as set out in the Dakar Framework for Action has to be applied to the 65 million childrens (including those with disabilities) whose education has been disrupted by humanitarian crises.
  2. Education in emergency requires more focus on ensuring access for persons with disabilities given that persons with disabilities are likely to face increased risks and suffer even more of a disadvantage in terms of access to aid (food, water, shelter).
  3. Emergencies provides an opportunity to build inclusive education systems from the beginning.
  4. Support and training for educators working is critical to the success of inclusive education interventions.
  5. Inclusive education is “democracy in action”.EiE_Session_Panel_cropped_1000_373

The 3 Innovative Practices and Policies presented:

Mandatory minimum standards for education in emergencies, Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)
Inclusive Education in post-war instability
, Ministry of Education of the Iraqi-Kurdistan region, Iraq
Creating mainstream schools in a war-torn country by Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, Afghanistan
Access to education for refugee children with disabilities
by Initiative for Refugees living with Disability, Rwanda

Inclusive vocational training in low and middle income countries

In this session six Innovative Practices and Policies were presented that have created thousands of jobs for youth with disabilities, operating in countries with little public funding and overall high unemployment rates. Madai Linkimer, ILO/UNDP, reported he following 5 key messages:

  1. Education and vocational training are the most effective pathways to achieve quality jobs for persons with disabilities.
  2. Vocational training for persons with disabilities must be offered in an inclusive way.
  3. Vocational training courses must be aligned to labor market demand for being more successful on increasing the employability profile of persons with disabilities.
  4. Implementation of reasonable accommodation is a basic element for vocational training access for persons with disabilities.
  5. Vocational training strategies must include specific actions for reducing gender gaps on educational access for persons with disabilities, as well as gaps with other groups of disabled persons, e.g persons with intellectual disabilities.

The 6 Innovative Practices and Policies presented:

Vocational training leading directly to jobs in the open labour market by Youth4Jobs Foundation, India
Inclusive vocational training and workplaces for youth with disabilities by Light for the World, Kenya
A million-user online platform is strengthening Latin American DPOs by The Trust for the Americas, USA
Bridging the gap to the ICT industry by IBM Belgium, Belgium
Stimulation kit and training for caregivers by Uhambo Foundation, South Africa
Boosting the employability of Costa Ricans with disabilities, Ministry of Work and Social Security, Costa RicaWP_20160211_16_08_28_Pro

Inclusive vocational training on the job

This session explored the added value of company-based training of youth with disabilities and highlighted models that have successfully advanced the access of persons with disabilities to mainstream company-based vocational education and training. Six Innovative Practices were presented:

All you need to know to open the door to the labour market by Aspa Foundation, Finland
Preparing young people for real jobs in bakeries by Caritas, Austria
Easy-to-read newspaper articles, written by persons with learning difficulties by Jugend am Werk GmbH and the daily newspaper KURIER, Austria
Persons with learning difficulties working as IT trainers by PIKSL, Germany
Simulating a supermarket as a learning environment by Istituto Tecnico Economico “C. Colombo”, Italy
Jobs in kindergartens and elder care for persons with intellectual disabilities by Konekt vzw, Belgium

Anti-bullying and anti-violence strategies

A WHO review on the prevalence and risk of violence against children with disabilities found that overall boys and girls with disabilities are almost four times more likely to experience violence than children without disabilities. And when it comes to bullying the figures are not much better. Artemi Sakellaridis, CSIE, and Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion, reported the following key points from this session in which 3 Innovatives Practices 2016 were presented:

  1. Support should be provided to people with learning difficulties to make decisions about their own lives.
  2. Bullying has a lasting negative impact on a person’s life (increased risk of mental health issues at age 18+).
  3. Myth, superstition, traditional views, stereotypes are still widespread in many countries and in the media.
  4. Bullying happens because some people find it hard to accept difference. Schools need to make time to promote understanding of diversity. Also, intersectionality is important.
  5. Disabled adults/teachers should take the lead in explaining the social history of the oppression of disabled people.

The 3 Innovatives Practices 2016 presented:

Preventing bullying in English schools by World of Inclusion Limited, United Kingdom
Reducing all forms of prejudice-based bullying by Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, United Kingdom
Preventing bullying against women with learning difficulties by Ninlil, Austria

Changing attitudes: Successful advocacy campaigns20160212_112344

In many countries, efforts to advance inclusive education fail due to hostility and prejudice by the relevant communities. For instance, in 2010 only 35% of the population in Montenegro found it acceptable for a child with a disability to attend the same class as their own non-disabled child. To counter those trends, there is the need to increase awareness about the rights of children with disabilities and to change social norms.

Jane Buchanan reported the lessons learnt from this session in which 5 Innovatives Practices and Policies were presented:

  1. A successful advocacy strategy requires knowing and thinking carefully about how to achieve change. Who are the agents of change? How do we reach them? What are our tools and messages?
  2. Each strategy requires flexibility, and different combinations of approaches and messaging.
  3. Advocacy through media campaigns lay the groundwork for meaningful implementation of inclusive education. It also empowers persons with disabilities , giving them the language and tools of human rights laws to advocate for their rights.
  4. Advocacy compels governments to fulfill their human rights obligations through strategic litigation.
  5. Solid partnerships are required for sustainability of advocacy.

The Innovatives Practices and Policies presented:

Using courts and litigation for the right to Inclusive Education by NSGK, Netherlands
A curriculum for advancing the UN CRPD – in six languages by Burton Blatt Institute, Syracuse University, USA
Increasing diversity by increasing access to leal education by IDIA Charitable Trust, India
Indian campaign to educate visually-impaired children is going global by ICEVI, India
Changing exclusionary behaviour patterns through advocacy, UNICEF Montenegro, with Government of Montenegro, EU and others

Inclusive universities

Students with disabilities in higher education remain under-represented (often they leave education earlier than those not having a disability), although their numbers are rising. Isabelle Turmaine from the International Association of Universities reported the following 5 key points made during this session dedicated to strategies to make universities inclusive and accessible:

  1. The session showcased great practices & policies, yet, there is still a long way to go before all persons with disabilities attend higher education, in the field of study and location of their choice.
  2. Both administrative and academic staff should be trained to address and respond to questions put by every student. This could be done with the help from trainers with a disability (including intellectual disabilities).
  3. There is a need for the inclusion of universal design and other tools that promote accessibility of scientific content, courses, and online platforms in all curricula.
  4. The cost of, and who is paying for, the support to students with disabilities vary by disability and country. But everywhere this cost is high. At a time of reduced funding for universities, ways to minimize this cost through collaboration, networking should be sought.
  5. Definition of a inclusive university and organizational developments leading towards it were the non-answered questions that ended the session.

The 6 Innovative Practices and Policies presented:

Providing a university experience for persons with intellectual disabilities by Centre for Disability Studies (CDS), Australia
How to teach students with and without disabilities equally by Universidad Tecnológica Santa Catarina, Mexico
Moving step-by-step towards an inclusive university by zhb DoBuS Dortmund Centre for disability and Technische Universität Dortmund, Germany
Breaking down barriers to scientific knowledge by Ciencia Sin Barreras, Spain
Adding Universal Design in ICT student curricula by Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Norway
Access to higher education in Estonia, Ministry of Education and Research, Archimedes Foundation and partner, Estonia

Two sessions focused on Austria, the conference’s host country

At the first workshop inclusive education policies of Austria were discussed, taking into account regional differences, as well as vocational and educational training. One Innovative Practice was also presented: An all-stakeholder approach towards Inclusive Education by Chance B Holding, Austria.Session2.1

At the second workshop vocational training and employment models that effectively build on the strengths of persons with disabilities, from start-ups to leading companies, were discussed. All models presented had in common that they are supported directly by the Essl Foundation or are its partner. Two representatives of Innovative Practices from the previous years,  Specialisterne and Discovering Hands, were also invited to the panel.


Technology Show – Learn and Play!

Drone controlled through a mouth joystick !

Drone controlled through a mouth joystick !

A special Technology Show was organized on the eve of the second conference evening, in cooperation with Innovative Practices 2016 representatives who presented their innovative devices, apps, web and communication tools in an entertaining 60-minutes Technology Show.

The participants were: 4D-Joystick, ADJ, Barclay`s Bank, Irisbond, Lifetool, MED-EL, PIKSL, Wayfindr and SignTime.

A drone steered by mouth and flying through the Plenary Room was quite a sight!

Have a look at our gallery for more pictures.

Plenary Session on accessible ICTs

As the first session on our second conference day, this plenary was an “eye-opener” designed to get everyone on the same page of accessible ICTs and their relevance for inclusive education. And as you can see, we used our cozy talk show format once again.

Plenary on ICT

E-Accessibility standards as drivers of innovation

Information and communication technologies are highly complex. E-Accessibility standards can be a powerful means of promoting accessibility, even more so if countries align their accessibility standardisation policies, as did for instance the United States and European Union. Alejandro Moledo, European Disability Forum, reported the 5 following key points:

  1. Given the increasing presence of ICT in our daily lives, e-accessibility standards are a key driver for the inclusion of persons with disabilities and the implementation of the UN CRPD.
  2. The structured collaboration between the US and the EU is opening up the global market of accessibility. It should be envisaged how to bring them at international level.
  3. This model should lead to a global commitment of governments to legislate on accessibility (such as the European Accessibility Act), as well as to only buy accessible products and services.
  4. These standards must be functionality oriented (instead of too detailed), in order to allow creativeness and future innovation by the ICT industry.
  5.  Other elements are necessary, such as political will, legislative framework, awareness raising campaigns, higher education curricula on accessibility, training, a harmonised monitoring approach (e.g. EIII project for web accessibility).

The Innovative Policy 2016 presented: the Transatlantic e-Accessibility standards cooperation from the European Commission and the U.S. Access Board.


Innovative communication devices

In the session 5 Innovative Practices that support the communication of persons with all kinds of disabilities, including those with severe and multiple disabilities, were presented. Uli Ehler, Rehadapt, reported the session’s key messages:

  1. The session delivered information about a broad range of projects, spanning from orientation in public space or cultural institutions, access to ICT, projects that aim for inclusion in the labor market and participation in various aspects of society.
  2. The discussion aimed towards models of deployment/distribution, how the project ideas are brought to individuals in need, specifically in regions with low income.
  3. Very different approaches were favored, from open source/grassroot movement, social enterprise, government funded or other charitable institutions (e.g. lottery financed) models up to classic commercial models with profit orientation.
  4.  There was agreement in the need of many different models. The combination of bottom-up and top-down approaches was deemed most promising to achieve full accessibility.

The 5 Innovative Practices presented:

New museum experiences for persons with learning difficulties by PIKSL and Antonia Eggeling Design, Germany
Promoting innovative assistive technologies internationally by University of Applied Sciences Technikum Vienna, Austria
Controlling the computer with eye movements by Irisbond, Spain
Wayfindr: Empowering vision impaired people to travel independently by Royal London Society for Blind People UK
Quality healthcare and counselling through video technology by doctHERs, Pakistan

E-Learning tools for students with learning difficulties

In that session two Innovative Practices 2016 were presented that support easy language and intuitive learning:

English skills for persons with learning difficulties, by GNW Ltd, Hungary
An e-learning platform for audio and video learning materials by Elementary and Secondary Boarding School “Milan Petrovic”, Serbia


Making learning materials accessible

This session was dedicated to the potential barriers that persons with disabilities encounter when trying to access learning materials, and to solutions that effectively reduce these barriers, when planning courses, selecting and creating instructional materials, and conducting a class. Six Innovative Practices were presented:

Creating smart accessible media using RoboBraille by Austrian Association supporting the blind and visually impaired, Austria
Using iPads to create multiple information channels by Centro Leonardo Education, Italy
Accessible learning materials for students with visual impairments by Young Power in Social Action, Bangladesh
One children’s book in nine accessible formats by WVA Editora, Brazil
Accessible books for vision-impaired students using Android technology by Action on Disability Rights and Development, Nepal
One accessible textbook platform for all universities by AMAC Accessibility Solutions, USA


Increase access to Hearing Implant Technology

Chaired by Med-El, a leading manufacturer of cochlear implant and a sponsor of the Zero Project Conference 2016, experts discussed advantages by hearing implant technology. Patrick D’Haese, Med-El, reported the following keys points from this session:

  1. High need to raise awareness for hearing impairment and its impact on children and societies.
  2. Early cochlear implantation improves quality of life, educational achievements, increases their future earning power and enhances their communication abilities.
  3. Main focus has been on “outcomes”, but one needs to consider also “impact” and “social return on investment”.
  4. Need to promote policy solutions to address barriers and inequities in access to innovative technologies such as hearing implants.
  5. Create visibility and recognition of severe hearing loss in children.


Creating accessibility using technology

More and more technology is entering the mainstream and transforming lives. This session presented six Innovative Practices and discussed how innovation in the technological and digital world can improve access of persons with and without disabilities alike. Martin Gould, G3ict, reported the session’s key points:

  1. Accessible technology provides performance feedback to students and teachers and enhances the student-teacher relationship, as well as both their skills levels.
  2. Real-time video sign language is highly appropriate and effective for use in emergency situations of all types.
  3. Self-directed website accessibility is a practical and cost-effective approach.
  4. Financial literacy training that is provided through accessible technology can be as relevant for people with and without disabilities.
  5. A more accessible world may best be rendered through services including: information dissemination, training and consulting, early childhood literacy, mentoring, and public awareness.

The Innovative Practices:

Accessible websites created ‘automatically’ by User1st, Israel
Using computers to support blind learners on all levels of education by Tanzania League of the Blind, Tanzania
Video emergency line for persons with hearing-impairments by Higher Council of Affairs of Persons with Disabilities, Jordan
Providing live transcripsts of lessons and instant feedback to teachers by Access Innovation Media and the University of Melbourne, Australia
Learning to manage one´s own personal finances by ONCE Foundation, Spain
Creating a more accessible world for deaf children in Ireland by Sound Advice, Ireland

Speech and hearing technologies

With the development of digital and wireless technologies, more and more devices are becoming available to help people with hearing, voice, speech, and language disorders to communicate and participate fully in society. This session was dedicated to present four Innovative Practices concerning  speech and hearing technologies:

Improving speech by visualizing it, by ADJ Electronics, South Africa
The sign language Avatar Project, by signtime GmbH, Austria
Remote speech-to-text and sign language interpretation, by VerbaVoice GmbH, Germany
Video sign language interpretation for bank customers, by Barclays Bank, United Kingdom


Non-formal educationSession2.3

This session was dedicated to how non-formal education such as sports, music and arts can be used to communicate and teach fundamental skills to persons with and without disabilities alike. Six Innovative Practices 2016 from all over the world were presented:

Using pictures to promote health, by Child and Adolescent Health Service, Australia
Music as an education and communication tool for students with autism by Istituto Comprensivo Via Dei Boschi, Italy
Stimulation kit and training for caregivers by Uhambo Foundation, South Africa
Creating school communities of acceptance, inclusion and respect by The Unified Movement, USA
Teaching sign language to everyone in an entertaining way by Access Israel, Israel

Models for training of teachers, trainers, parents and caregivers

For a progressive global CRPD implementation, institutional actors, teachers and parents have to learn and to adapt to the new paradigm and civil society and disabled people’s organisations have an important role to play in this process. Three Innovative Practices were presented that train teachers, trainers, parents and caregivers – an efficient way to change systems towards inclusion and accessibility.

A sign language curriculum especially for parents, by Sign Impact, Inc. , Canada
Training carers, family members and staff via a web platform, by APEMH, Luxembourg
Using technology in the classroom to support all students, by The Swedish Agency for Participation, Sweden

Donor’s Forum on Inclusive Education

Major international donor organizations in the field of inclusive education came together to present positive examples of their work, to discuss their funding strategies and to present ways to ensure that the needs of stakeholders with disabilities are considered, especially in efforts of education reform.


Innovative financing of inclusion and accessibility

Apart from public funding and grant making, alternative ways of financing were presented, like Social Investment Funds, Seed Financing, Impact Investing or Social Impact Bonds.

Towards UN Habitat III: Accessible and inclusive urban development

In October 2016, the Third Global Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development (Habitat III) will take place in Quito, Ecuador. This session’s experts explained the Habitat III process and discussed what was needed to move towards inclusive and accessible urban development in the future. The session included also presentations of one Innovative Practice and one Innovative Policy:

Universal Design in Irish Tourism Services as a business case National Standards Authority of Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Centre for Excellence in Universal Design
Supporting architects and urban planners to understand accessibility by The Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES)

Final Plenary: Zero Project 2016 & 2017 – The Way Forward

Final Plenary

To conclude the Zero Project Conference 2016, the final plenary brought together recommendations from the different sessions and provided an outlook on the way forward.

After an inspiring keynote speech from Gopal Mitra (UNICEF), participants received a glimpse on what the Zero Project team will be working on in the coming months (for instance, a wonderful side event at the Humna Rights Council, …).

In particular, the theme of our next report and conference in 2017 which will be employment – a new four-year cycle begins!

The Essl Foundation and the World Future Council – celebrating 5 years of cooperation

©Pepo Schuster, austrofocus.atDuring the official opening ceremony Jakob von Uexkull praised Martin and Gerda Essl for their commitment for and support in enhancing the rights of person with disabilities – without their support the Zero Project would not have been set up!

And it has been 5 years since the Essl Foundation and the World Future Council have been cooperating on this project.

Recognition of the Zero Project – Award from Saudi Arabia

HHP Latifa Bent Thinian Bin Mohamed AL-SAUD Receiving Award 4

Her Royal Highness Princess Latifa Bent Thinian Bin Mohamed Al-Saud was impressed and handed over, in the name of the Saudi Association for People with a Disability, a beautiful award to the Zero Project team for its accomplishments.

Thank you very much!

 Throughout the Conference:  Technology Exhibition and Accessibility for All Trail

Moreover, an interactive Accessibility for All trail was set up at the entrance of the conference area and created awareness among participants on the barriers of the built environment that persons with different types with disabilities encounter.

In addition, our Innovative Practices 2016 related to technology presented their hardware and software in a wonderful exhibition. Check out our programme if you wish to know who participated!

“You cannot really understand it, until you feel it for yourself!”

“You cannot really understand it, until you feel it for yourself!” Gerda Essl exploring the Accessibility for All Trail.

SiMAX the Sign Language Avatar Project

SiMAX, the Sign Language Avatar Project with its stand at our Technology Exhibition

Get your copy of the Zero Project Report 2016

The Zero Project Report 2016 can be downloaded here and our website allows for browsing its different sections: Innovative Practices, Innovative Policies as well as Social Indicators. In addition, our report was printed for the occasion of our conference. A few hard copies can still be ordered at the head office in Vienna:

Stay in touch with us!

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The Zero Project Team is very grateful to all of you for this wonderful conference. See you next year!

©Pepo Schuster,