Zero Project conference

Frank Larkin Accessible LetterkennyFrank Larkin recently had the pleasure for the 4th time of attending the Zero Project conference in Vienna. Martin Essl social entrepreneur of the Essl foundation launched the Zero project conference in 2009 with the concept of creating a “world without barriers”. This year was their 9th annual conference. Each year the focus is on 1 of 4 themes: education, accessibility, assistive technology & employment. This years focus was on accessibility.

The Zero Project conference has grown hugely from less than a hundred people, and in the lead up to this years conference they engaged with 1000 experts in choosing the practices which would win awards this year. In the last 5 years they have engaged more than 4000 stakeholders in 180 countries across all sectors of society.

Martin Essls personal mission in his home country is to support employment of persons with disabilities through a paradigm shift. All stakeholders need to be involved in such an undertaking and establishing those links is an ongoing process.

The Government support which comes from the Ministry of Social Affairs is something the foundation greatly appreciates. They are organizing dialogue with Human Resources managers & the business sector where they believe there is great potential to increase inclusive employment for people with disabilities.

For the next 2 years the foundation has secured funding for a Government approved pilot project in inclusive & Accessible ICT academies. They will use existing training courses of international IT companies Cisco, Microsoft & SAP. These courses will be made accessible for all students. The aim is to present the results to the Zero project conference in 2020 with a view to upscaling in other organizations & institutions.

Top house is another initiative being rolled out. This is funded by EU Erasmus+ programme. Initially training & advocacy tools will be produced with the view of making local authority housing schemes more accessible & inclusive. The aim also is to address the areas where people with disabilities, rarely, if ever,  get opportunities to be allocated suitable flats or apartments which are affordable.

That’s an overview of the Essl foundation and Zero project current work. In the next blog update I will look at some of the awardees at this years conference and the work that they are doing. For more check out Zero Project