Being Loud and Proud at the ZeroCon24. Photo of people posing for a photo

From 21-23 February, we were in Vienna (represented by our Policy and Movement Officer, Kamil Goungor, and our ESC volunteer, Fionn Crombie Angus) for the Zero Project Conference 2024 (ZeroCon), dedicated this year to inclusive education and ICT. The ZeroCon is an annual gathering of the international disability movement, with over 1000 participants on site and even more online, organised by the Essl Foundation at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. It is a three-days event with parallel session around disability innovation and the theme of the year each time. Its highlight is the awards ceremony of the projects from all over the world that excelled in the field.

ENIL and numerous of our members are present and actively involved each time, with this year being no exception. Both Kamil and Fionn spoke or moderated several sessions and had the opportunity to meet disabled people and people interested in disability rights from all over the world.

On the first day, they had the chance to speak together in a session titled: “Innovative TVET programmes with a focus on persons with intellectual disabilities*”, where they presented ENIL’s work with Eramus+ and European Solidarity Corps volunteers, both generally as well as specifically the experience of Fionn in Brussels. Fionn had also the opportunity, together with his father Jonathan, to share their own expertise in starting and developing a social enterprise.

Later in the event they both had the chance to participate in a Fireside Chat, a 15-20 minutes one on one interview style discussion on a given topic. On the first day, Kamil interviewed Lisa Wadors Verne from Benetech, about the Inclusive EdTech Working Group initiative, while on the second day Fionn (with the support of Jonathan) talked about their social enterprise Fionnathan Productions and how it changes the disability support landscape. Staying in the interview mode, let us also tell you that Fionn had the opportunity to interview the person behind ZeroCon, Martin Essl, and the medical doctor, Johannes Fellinger.

On the second day, Kamil moderated one of the four parallel workshops (in a hybrid format) dedicated to AccessibleEU, and more specifically the one dedicated to built environment and tourism, where current developments were shared. During the two-hours session, the AccessibleEU Resource Centre and Overview of Built Environment policies and standards in the European Union were presented, as well as interesting and good practices on the accessibility of cultural and natural heritage, and in the hospitality sector.

Finally, on the last day, Fionn and Kamil, together with a few other participants, were invited to join a visit to an inclusive (or better “integrative” as the school people prefer to say) school in Vienna, the Schulzentrum Ungargasse (SZU), a technical high school with students that are both disabled and not. They had the opportunity to visit a classroom during a lesson and talk with the students and their professor, as well as some of the other school facilities like the physiotherapy room, the gym and the swimming pool, among others, learning how all students benefit from them. It was a really good example that proves that true inclusion is possible for all, and we would like more schools like that to exist.

Overall, this year’s Zero Project Conference was very enriching and interesting for us. We learnt many new things, connected with new people and organisations, and met friends and members of ENIL. We shared our work to a wide audience too, and hope to be able to do it again next year, when the ZeroCon25 will be dedicated to employment and ICT.

*Please note that by clicking on the links you can find the session description, the speakers as well as the session recording too.