Martin Habacher

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our good friend and colleague, Martin Habacher. Martin brought so much enthusiasm and character to our social media over the more than five years that he worked with us. He was well known and liked and will was a familiar and friendly face to so many at the Zero Project Conferences. He will be greatly missed.

Mit großer Trauer geben wir den Tod unseres guten Freundes und Kollegen, Martin Habacher, bekannt. In den fünf Jahren, in denen er mit uns arbeitete, brachte Martin so viel Enthusiasmus und Persönlichkeit in unsere Welt der Sozialen Medien. Er war beliebt und bekannt und war auf den Zero Project Konferenzen ein vertrautes und freundliches Gesicht. Wir werden Dich vermissen!

Fedoma Logo from exclusion to inclusion

We are excited to hear that Federation of Disability Organizations in Malawi (FEDOMA), a Zero Project 2019 awardee, has been assigned by the Malawi Electoral Commission to coordinate nomination of all candidates with disabilities for upcoming local and national elections. It is expected that at least 4 people will run for Member of Parliament and 8 for Councilorship, drawn from a list of an initial 24 who had shown interest. Good luck to everyone involved! To find out more or to get involved read this article.

A man speaking to a semi-circle of volunteers holding white canes

Youth and volunteering

Two young men in a market carrying a cardboard box together with fruit and vegetables
Volunteers with disabilities helping the elderly carry bags for “Volunteering for a change”

So often, volunteering opportunities relating to disability are seen as volunteering to help persons with disabilities. However, innovations around the world are encouraging and supporting persons with disabilities to help others in need. Mexico-based Unidos Somos Iguales trains young people with and without disabilities to participate in social programmes as “allies”. Similarly “Volunteering for a Change”, a partnership between government and NGOs in Israel supports students /with disabilities to engage in meaningful volunteer work. Austria-based WeltWegWeiser has developed a framework for inclusive volunteer assignments in low-income countries. Finally, Empowerment Through Integration in Lebanon works to train young people with visual impairments through various measures to promote social inclusion.

The parallel session on Youth and Volunteering takes place on day 2 of the conference (21st February) at 10:45 in M3.

Improving the response of the criminal justice system to persons with disabilities

Persons with various disabilities may have unique problems when navigating the criminal justice system, which may be confusing and intimidating. Thankfully, there are projects around the world which support people in innovative ways.

An example card showing name, profile photo, and list of impairments following brain injury for example I have speech difficulties. Card includes a police logo and a phone number for criminal legal assistance.
Headway’s Brain Injury Identity Card

Headway, in the United Kingdom has created a nationally-recognised Brain Injury Identity Card which enables fair treatment when encountering the criminal justice system. In the United States the multidisciplinary response team from NCCJD’s Pathways to Justice programme aims to improve local criminal justice systems response to victims, witnesses, defendants, and prisoners with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The parallel session on criminal justice system takes place on day 3 of the conference (22nd February) at 14:50 in M1.

Supporting people facing multiple disadvantages

People with and without disabilities in a large room holding up placards with disability slogans in portuguese
Promoting the rights of persons with disabilities through Escola de Gente’s APA programme

For many people, living with a disability can be just one of the challenges they face. In Canada, the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society supported over 1,700 people to access local or national services in 2017. Meanwhile, in Brazil, Escola de Gente’s Accessibility Promotion Agents programme works with young people with and without disabilities in favelas to identify and intervene when the rights of people with disabilities have been violated.

The parallel session on supporting people facing multiple disadvantages takes place on day 3 of the conference at 12:40 in M1.

YPSA logo

Professor Dr. Iftekhar Uddin Chowdhury, Vice-Chancellor of University of Chittagong, has inaugurated a modern technology-rich “Accessible E-learning Center” for the 150 visually impaired students studying at the University of Chittagong. A.K. Khan Foundation, a2i programme of Bangladesh Government and YPSA jointly established the Accessible E-learning Center which was formally inaugurated on January 7, 2019 at the university’s Central Library Auditorium.

Good friend of the Zero Project, Vashkar Bhattacharjee, while giving his introductory speech, said that this e-learning center is equipped with computers, all types of software and hardware tools (known as adaptive or assertive technologies), more than 200 Digital Talking Books, Accessible Dictionary, 300 booklets, 50 Braille books, and ICT training have been consistently provided to nearly 100 students.

Find out more by reading the press release on the Young Power in Social Action website.

The Microsoft logo

Microsoft are currently accepting applications for two exciting programs designed to empower youth with disabilities and build a pipeline of talent.

Ninja Camp, a weeklong camp for high school students with disabilities provides an introduction to technology, life at Microsoft and the future of accessibility. Online applications are due by February 1st 2019.

The disability Scholarship was created in 2013 to enable high school students with disabilities to go to college and target a career in the technology industry. Applications are due by March 1st, 2019.

A person with intellectual disabilitis dries a washed dish int he kitchen

Today we bring you part two of our awardee blog. Here, we take a look at projects that aim to support people in moving from institutions and regain control over their daily lives and decisions.

Making deinstitutionalisation work

We begin by taking a look at models that support a holistic approach to deinstitutionalisation. The number of children in residential care in Moldova has dropped by 86 per cent since Lumos began promoting deinstitutionalisation and inclusive education in the country. Also in Moldova, Keystone’s “Community for All” programme has supported more than 2,000 people with intellectual disabilities to move back to their families or community-based homes. In Ireland, Genio Trust has been working with the Government and philanthropy to co-ordinate closure of institutions and moving of residents into a community-based environment.

The parallel session on making deinstitutionalisation work takes place on day three of the conference (Friday 22nd February) at 13:40 in M1.

A lady carries a tray of coffee cups in a kitchen, while an onlooker smiles in the backgrouns
Hasnija, beneficiary of Union SUMERO’s housing and support prepares coffee in her own home

Supported housing models in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Many organisations are managing models for supporting those who have moved from institutions, or as a preventative measure to allow people to stay in their communities. In Romania, Pro ACT Suport are running a ‘stepping-stone’ model to train and support people with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities to live in the community. In Kazakhstan, the Psychoanalytic Association is supporting people in the Almaty region to move from institutions via a Training Café. Milan Petrovic school in Serbia supports adults with intellectual disabilities to live in the community with tailored assistance. Finally, Union SUMERO in Bosnia and Herzegovina has helped 80 people with intellectual disabilities to live in shared houses in their local communities with daily support.

The parallel session on Supported housing models in Eastern Europe and Central Asia takes place on day 2 of the conference (Thursday 21st) at 16:00 in M1.

Supported decision making and personal budget models

Finally, we look at models that support persons to have more control over their daily lives through supported-decision making and personal budgets.

Three people, two in football shirts looking away from the camera towards a football pitch. A man in a black t-shirt has his arm around the shoulder of one of the footballers
Taking part in sport – a choice through Israel Unlimited

Innovative models for personal budgets and decision-making have been awarded in Israel. Bizchut have successfully demonstrated a model for supported decision-making which has let to changes in national government legislation. JDC and Israel Unlimited have successfully worked with the government to start a personal budget model, having worked with leaders and policy makers from the United States, where there is a well-established model. And in Sweden, PO- Skåne has been working as a contractor for local governments to provide personal ombudsmen and a self-determination coordinator for people with psychosocial disabilities.

The parallel session on supported decision making and personal budget models takes place on day 1 of the conference (Wednesday 20th) at 13:30 in M1.

Top picture – Mujo, a beneficiary of Union SUMERO’s shared housing and daily support, now living in his own home.

Zero Project Impact Transfer participants 2017/2018

In 2017, the first Zero Project Impact Transfer program was launched. A partnership between the Zero Project and Ashoka, the program supports projects to replicate their social impact and innovation to other countries. The program combines the expertise of the Zero Project network with Ashoka’s extensive experience in impact transfer. In 2017, ten projects were selected from the Zero Project shortlist, including accessible playgrounds for children in Israel, an easy language news service in Austria and navigation using tongue clicks for people who are blind in the USA. You can watch a one minute round up of the Impact Transfer session at Zero Project Conference 2018 here.

Over the past year, participants have built on contacts made at the conference to take forward replication in a number of new countries around the world. Enable India is talking to partners in Ethiopia about replicating its mobile phone-based disability information service, the Museum of Modern Art in the USA has run training on accessibility programs with cultural institutions in Germany, and Capito is discussing takings its easy news service from Austria to Brazil.

2018/19 participants

Building on the success of last year, the Zero Project and Ashoka are delighted to announce the participants for this year’s Zero Project Impact Transfer program. 11 projects from ten countries are taking part, all with innovative and exciting approaches to promoting independent living and political participation for people with disabilities.

DanceAbility International (USA) – bringing dance and artistic expression to people with and without disabilities worldwide
Empowerment through Integration (Lebanon) – empowerment programmes for youth with disabilities involving their families and communities
Enosh – the Israeli Mental Health Association (Israel) – ‘Seeds of Change’ training on sexual trauma and mental health for professionals
Escola de Gente (Brazil) – training young leaders in accessibility and inclusion
Fightthestroke (Italy) – therapy IT-platform improves motor function in young people with cerebral palsy
Greta and Starks (Germany) – mobile app providing captioning and audio description in cinemas
kinderhände (Austria) – bilingual classes supporting families to learn sign language together
National Center for Criminal Justice and Disability (USA) – improving the criminal justice system for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities
Profamilia, ASDOWN Colombia, LICA and PAIIS (Colombia) – promoting the sexual and reproductive rights of people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities
Solar Ear (Botswana) – affordable hearing aids through solar technology
Unidos Somos Iguales (Mexico) – young volunteers as agents for social inclusion


Ahead of the conference in February 2019, participants have been refining their replication model with support from training webinars, mentors and external experts, and will also have a two-day preparation camp in Vienna. At the conference, participants will pitch for partners, funding and other support needed for replication at a dedicated Impact Transfer session. If you are attending the conference please come along to the Impact Transfer Forum, taking place on Wednesday 20th February, 12:20-14:20 in M2 to find out about these projects’ ambitious plans to replicate, and discover how you can work with them to bring these exciting innovations to your local context.

We will be sharing more information about all these projects in the run up to the conference in February. You can also visit the Zero Project Impact Transfer webpage for updates on both the 2017/18 and 2018/19 Impact Transfer programs and participants.

A woman with intellectual disabilities places her voting paper in the voting box during a drill

Today we begin a multi-part blog where we introduce you to our awardee projects that will be presented at the 2019 Zero Project Conference. We’ll also explore the themes that connect them.

Possibly the largest aspect of political participation for most people is elections, and as such this was a key topic for our research this year. Many projects, both from governments and NGOs are working to improve access to elections for persons with various disabilities.

Accessible elections

Around the world, projects are increasing general access to voting such as Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court’s “Electoral Justice Accessibility Programme” which moves polling stations to accessible buildings, provides staff that can communicate in sign-language and provides electronic voting machines. In Canada, Elections Saskatchewan’s Accessibility Implementation Plan improves homebound voting and improved polling station access, while in Mexico, Instituto Nacional Electoral’s national protocol improves access to polling stations, provides electoral material that promotes Braille ballots and provides sign language at public debates.

A ballot paper overlayed with a sleeve with holes next to Braille numbers

A Braille ballot sleeve in Saskatchewan

Paraguay Electoral Tribunal are improving accessing to elections after endorsing a number of recommendations from USAID and Fundación Saraki, including absentee ballots, plus braille and sign language voting information to improve access to voting. Finally, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems in the United States has developed a free-to-download election access observation toolkit which for organisations around the world to observe and collect data on access to electoral processes.

The parallel session on accessible elections takes place on day 2 (21st February) of the Zero Project Conference 2019 in the main room M1 at 14:35 CET.

Inclusive voter information

Information to help persons with disabilities understand the voting process and to choose who they wish to vote for is being made more accessible in some very innovative ways. In Spain, Plena Inclusión runs an awareness raising campaign to encourage those with intellectual disability to use their vote, while in Australia, Inclusion Melbourne is supporting participation through easy-language materials and online campaign information. Similarly, ENABLE Scotland and the UK Electoral Commission are providing easy-read voting guides while also providing accessible hustings. Finally, Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan run group-study opportunities for persons with intellectual disabilities to learn about Swedish politics using easy-read material.

A young lady and a young man study voting guides while sat at a table

Voters studying easy-read voting guides in Scotland

The parallel session on inclusive voter information takes place on day 2 (21st February) of the Zero Project Conference 2019 in the main room M1 at 10:55 CET.

Online voting systems and tactile ballots

Alternatives to traditional voting systems are being implemented around the world to allow persons with different disabilities to vote, such as online ballots OmniBallot from Seattle-based Democracy Live which enables voting via computer, tablet or smartphone. Similarly, iVote from Barcelona-based Scytl enables Blind voters to vote via their smartphone in Western Australia.

A young man with a physica disability sat at a desk touching the computer screen

A man using an online touch-sccreen voting system from Democracy Live

An alternative for Blind voters is the use of tactile ballot papers, such as those from Boğaziçi University and the Association of Barrier Free Access in Turkey which allows voting for both those who can or cannot read Braille. In Georgia, the Central Election Commission has created tactile ballot guides which fit over standard ballot papers for Bind voters.

The parallel sessions on online voting systems and tactile ballots take place on day 2 (21st February) of the Zero Project Conference 2019 in room M3 at 16:25 and 17:15 CET respectively.

Banner with awardee crest with words award winner 2019

We are delighted to announce the Zero Project Innovative Practices and Policies 2019!

We bring to you 65 practices and 11 policies from around the world that help persons with disabilities on our 2019 topic of Independent Living and Political Participation. We are overwhelmed with the range and quality of the projects and are pleased to bring you solutions from a staggering 42 countries!

These projects cover a range of topics including accessible voting, housing, deinstitutionalisation, supported decision making, political representation, justice, smart technology, children and youth, the arts and inclusive daily life.

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

I think it’s best that we keep this short and let you explore the projects yourself. The full list is:

Community Connections Australia / Jeenee Mobile and the “Big Red Button” app
Inclusion Melbourne – ICanVote
Curtin University – Individual Supported Living
Scytl – iVote programme


Two young children holding their hands on their heads

kinderhände from Austria teaches sign language to children and parents

Jugend Eine Welt – WeltWegWeiser
Basic Initiative for Sport and Inclusion – Inklusion Sport

National Mental Health Programme

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Solar Ear

Superior Electoral Court – Electoral Justice Accessibility Programme
Escola de Gente – Accessibility Promotion Agents

Two wheelchair users face each other against a backdrop of post-it notes on a wall

Light for the World trains women in Cambodia to be leaders


Light for the World – Commune and Village Disability Representatives
Light for the World – Leadership Programme for Women with Disabilities
PPCIL – Personal Assistant Service System (PASS)

The British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS)
British Columbia Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction
Elections Saskatchewan
March of Dimes – Home and Vehicle Modification Program

Profamilia, ASDOWN Colombia, LICA and PAIIS

Fundación Discapacidad y Desarrollo

A young girl in a swimming suit sitting on the edge of a pool with her wheelchair behind her

Alhassan Foundation in Egypt offers a range of services including sporting opportunities

Alhassan Foundation


KVPS – EU Disability Card implementation

Central Election Commission

Greta & Starks – GRETA app

Basic Needs Ghana


Inclov matchmaking app
NCPEDP and Mphasis
Mom’s Belief

A young child lying on the floor between a mother and volunteers receives physical therapy

SEHATI Sukoharjo’s inclusion clubs bring together professionals and parents to exchange skills

SEHATI Sukoharjo – Inclusion Clubs

Genio Trust – Service Reform Fund

Enosh (The Israeli Mental Health Association) – Seeds of Wellness
JDC and Israel Unlimited – Personal budget model
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Israeli Ministry Of Education – Volunteering for a Change


Fightthestroke – Mirrorable

Organization for Broadcasting and Communications for People with Disabilities – Listening with your Eyes

Three adults shopping in a supermarket

Psychoanalytic Association Kazakhstan supportss persons with intellectual disabilities to live independently outside of institutions

Psychoanalytic Association – SIL Programme

Empowerment Through Integration (ETI)
Forum for the Handicapped

IFES – Electoral Sign Language Lexicon


Unidos Somos Iguales
Instituto Nacional Electoral

Keystone Moldova – Forum Theatre
Keystone Moldova – Community for All Moldova

Disable Empowerment and Communication Centre

A elderly wheelchair user casts her vote

USAID, Fundación Saraki, Electoral Tribunal worked together to improve voting accessibility in Paraguay (Copyright Fundacion Saraki, USAID Paraguay)

USAID, Fundación Saraki, Electoral Tribunal

Pro ACT Suport
Ceva de Spus Association – Graphic novel Becoming Eli

Elementary and Boarding School “Milan Petrovic”

SG Enable – “Tech Able” showroom

South Africa
Wigital – FingerTalk

Fundación ONCE
Plena Inclusión España – Mi Voto Cuenta


A man sat down with study material, raising his hand

Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan teaches voting processes and democracy to persons with intellectual disabilities in Sweden (copyright Peter Timar Lonneborg)

Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan – My Choice/My Election
PO-Skåne – Personal ombudsmen

Boğaziçi University and the Association of Barrier Free Access

United Kingdom
Headway – The Justice Project, Brain Injury Identity Card
ENABLE Scotland – #ENABLEtheVote
Neatebox — “Welcome by Neatebox” app
Disability Pride Belfast & Vehicles for Change – Mobiloo
Lumos Foundation

United States
MIUSA / Global Disability RightsNow!
IFES – Election Access Observation Toolkit
Democracy Live – OmniBallot
The Arc of the United States – Wings for Autism
DanceAbility International
The Arc of the United States – NCCJD, Pathways to Justice®

Viet Nam
BasicNeeds Viet Nam


Banner - awardees announced tomorrow!

Can we have a drum roll please! The countdown is almost over, and we are excited, overwhelmed and a little bit relieved (did we let anything slip?) to finally tell you. Tomorrow we can at last reveal the Zero Project 2019 awardees on the topic of Independent Living and Political Participation.

We will be taking you on a tour around the world to see incredible innovations that are helping to change the lives of people with disabilities. We’ll take you to Malawi to find out about more inclusive elections, and to Cambodia to learn about training for women with disabilities as leaders. We’ll be looking at a smart, accessible and sustainable home in Spain, and seeing at how a big red button can connect people with intellectual disabilities to a help centre, in Australia. We’ll also be finding how free guidance and legal assistance is helping Honduras with disabilities, and looking at how people with intellectual disabilities are able to stay in their communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

And many many more.

We are very proud of the diverse range of organisations, projects and contexts that the 2019 awardees come from, and hope you will enjoy learning, sharing and connecting with these incredible projects.

Tick tock…