The United Nations headquarters tower in New York with country flags waving in front

We at the Zero Project were delighted to hear the commitment of the UN Secretary General António Guterres to raise the standards of the UN’s performance on disability inclusion. The announcement came at the Conference of State Parties in June 2019 in New York. Martin Essl, founder of the Essl Foundation and the Zero Project, has written a letter of support to Mr Guterres, praising this fantastic commitment and offering the support of the Essl Foundation in any way that we are able, to turn this commitment into reality. We will also forward Martin Essl´s letter to the Austrian Permanent Mission at the UN in New York and also ask them to support this honorable mission.

The UN needs more support to create change – so we invite everyone to join in and do the same. Write an email to your country´s  Permanent Mission at the UN in New York, and ask them for their support as well. And share this Call for Action with your peers!

Four people posing for a photo in suits with a Zero Project certificate

It has been an intense but very enjoyable few weeks as we have been receiving nominations from all around the world! For the first time we broke the 400 mark for nominations! We can give you a precise figure once we have completed reviewing everything that has come in.

The call for nominations officially closed on Sunday 23rd June, but we have still been working with many of you to finalise and update your information, before we can let you know if the project has been accepted into the competition. We hope to give more information to everyone who has nominated in the next 2 weeks. Please bear with us in the meantime and stay tuned. We’re working hard and will give you another update soon.

Thank you to everyone who has taken part already – Whether you nominated, shared the call or helped us to find some great practices. This would not have been possible without you!

A group photo of the Zero Project team in a large open room in front of a Zero Project banner

We are looking for an intern who is available part time (approximately 28 hours/week), salary: 1.100 Euro/monthly and stays with us for at least 12 months (starting summer 2019). Ideally a student or post-graduate student who is willing to join a highly motivated team with worldwide outreach who is ready to accept the challenges of a dynamic, fast developing project. Our office is located in the First District of Vienna.

Find the detailed Job advertisment here

We have received record-breaking numbers of nominations in the last few days. We’re in contact with many of you already and trying to answer your questions as best as we can!

We want to give some extra time to complete your nominations. Therefore, we have decided to give you an extra week by extending the submission deadline to Sunday 23rd June 2019!

The next deadline will no doubt be upon us before we know it, so get your application to us as soon as possible!

Make sure you remember to complete your application and also SUBMIT once you have finished.

Good Luck!

Banner: Call for nominations closes next week! #ZeroCall20

Time is running out. There is just over one week until the nomination process for the 2020 Zero Project awards closes. Don’t miss your chance to nominate your practice or policy!

Don’t forget, we have loads of information that can help you, such as our 2020 nomination video, Q&A document and our 2020 Education Themes document.

If all else fails, please contact us directly at

For everyone who has started their applications, don’t forget to complete the information and press submit, or else it will not be included in the competition.

Good luck!

Lydia Shula of Mobility International USA collecting her award from Martin Essl

There is no prize money, no trophies and no red carpet. So just why should you make a nomination to the Zero Project?

Take to the stage

Modesta Nyirenda of Solar Ear presenting at the 2019 Zero Project Conference

By winning the Zero Project award, representatives of Innovative Policies and Practices are given the opportunity of presenting their models at the Zero Project Conference at the United Nations in Vienna. Each winner gets a space on stage to present to experts and leaders from all around the world to share their ideas and innovations on a truly global stage. The 2019 Zero Project Conference brought together more than 600 experts and leaders from 83 countries.

International recognition

Innovative Policies and Practices are published in the annual Zero Project report which is made available in hard copy at the Zero Project Conference and as a free accessible download from the Zero Project website. Policies and Practices are also published on the website. The report and website are used as research tools for international organisations, for example in 2018 the United Nations flagship report on Disability and Development referenced and linked directly to 50 practices and policies on the Zero Project website.

Become part of a global disability network

A very large group photo with over 100 people standing at the front of a conference room

Participants at the 2019 Zero Project Conference

All nominators, shortlisted projects and awardees have the opportunity to become part of the Zero Project network, which can lead to further opportunities. Members of the network have the chance to participate in selecting the Innovative Practices and Policies, and in doing so they get exposure to some of the latest and greatest innovations around the world.

Recognition at international events

Throughout each year the Zero Project takes part in other regional, national or global events on accessibility and inclusion such as the Conference of State Parties, the Harkin Summit and the M-Enabling Summit. This gives us further opportunity to share some projects, depending on the topics of the events.

Partnering and replication opportunities

Thess men in suits standing and talking in an open corridoor

Richard Kessler of the Kessler Foundation and Wolfgang Sobotka, President of the Austrian Parliament share some ideas with Martin Essl

Many innovators that have taken part in the conference have reported that their conversations with other participants have led to other opportunities for growth and replication. Experts and leaders come to the conference from all sectors such as business, philanthropy, and local, regional and international government. The 2019 Conference brought together representatives from Microsoft, G3ict, USAID, UNESCO, ITU, Light for the World, Lumos, European Network on Independent Living, MEPs from the European Union, plus Richard Kessler from the Kessler Foundation and Senator Tom Harkin of the Harkin Institute.

Specialised reports

From time to time the Zero Project creates additional reports, for example on sub-topics or cross-cutting topics. Some examples include the 2018 Analysis on Digital Technologies for Service Providers, produced in partnership with EASPD. This report brought together 15 innovations from the Zero Project network which showcased the power of technology to improve lives. Other examples include supplements on accessibility in a national Austrian newspaper, and the 2017 Zero Project Almanac, bringing together the innovations of the 4-year Zero Project cycle.

And if you want to find out more about any of the opportunities, just get in touch with us at We hope to hear from you soon!

Presenting in front of a Zero Project banner

We are excited to be hosting a side event at the Conference of State Parties to the CRPD at the UN Headquarters in New York.

We will be presenting a session on “Artificial Intelligence and the potential to increase inclusion, participation and independence for people with disabilities”.

For persons with disabilities, Artificial Intelligence and other emerging technologies have the potential to increase inclusion, participation and independence. However, there are legitimate concerns and challenges about these technologies that need to be addressed.

The Side Event will cover the topics of standards and political frameworks of AI regarding people with disabilities. It will present Innovative Practices as examples where AI has already provided benefits and will also mention the possible disadvantages. Proposed steps for future implementation will show the way forward and will ensure that people with disabilities will overcome the digital divide and will benefit from AI related technologies.

With the participation of:
Ms. Inmaculada Placencia Porrero, European Commission
Mr. Alejandro Moledo, European Disability Forum (EDF)
Mr. Luc de Witte, Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology (AAATE)
Ms. Roxana Widmer Iliescu, ITU
Ms. Susan Scott-Parker, Business Disability International
Mr. Klaus Hoeckner, Austrian Association in Support of the Blind and Visually Impaired
Mr. Wilfried Kainz, Essl Foundation/Zero Project

The event will take place on 10th June 2019 between 4:45 and 06:00 pm.

See you there!

Two men signing the contracts.

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 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 education more inclusive and accessible for persons with disabilities, including in pre-school, school systems, universities and all manner of non-formal education methods such as in museums, through the arts or in sports.

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!

Or make a nomination yourself at

Peter Badimak Yaro receives the 2019 Zero Project award from Martin Essl

There are still two weeks left until the nomination process for the 2020 awards closes. So why bother making your application now?

Once the nomination process ends, we have very tight deadlines for each stage of the selection process. This means there is very little time for us to look at the nominations in detail before the experts begin their evaluations.

By making a nomination early, it gives us the chance to take a detailed look at your nomination and give some tips and feedback to improve your chances of being selected. We have been running the Zero Project nomination process for many years, which has given us a huge insight into what the experts are looking for. And it’s not always the project itself. In many cases the key is in the way it is written – So that experts can easily understand the project and therefore give a fair opinion of it.

Many of those who have already submitted will be well aware of our feedback, as they will have already received emails from Wilfried, Seema, Paula or me with some (hopefully) helpful hints. In many cases we open the applications again for editing to allow you to make these small changes which can lead to a big difference in the later rounds.

When it comes to the final days of the selection process, we will be receiving tens of applications each day. Last year saw more than 150 applications created in the final week. It will simply not be possible to give detailed, individualised feedback at this point. So go ahead and improve your chances by making your nomination now!

Good luck!


Her Abilities Award logo. A yellow circle with a handwritten h in the middle

Call for nominations: Her Abilities Award 2019

Light for the World are inviting organisations to submit your nominations of female change makers with disabilities for the Her Abilities Award 2019. The award was initiated in 2018 by Light for the World to honour the achievements of women with disabilities in education and health; arts, culture and sports; and rights and advocacy.

At the Zero Project, we were delighted to welcome the 2018 awardees to the conference last year, with all three playing important roles in our panel sessions.

Nominations are open until 21 June 2019

Together with a fantastic all-female jury Light for the World are looking forward to receiving information about your nominees! Nominations can be submitted on the Her Abilities Award website.