Zero Kamil and MEP standing in front of the Zero Conference banner.Text says: Project Conference 2023

On 22-24 February, we attended the Zero Project Conference 2023 (ZeroCon23 in short), an annual disability inclusion gathering at the United Nations Office at Vienna. We were represented by Kamil Goungor, our Policy and Movement Support Officer, and Nina Portolan, our Youth Network Board member, who also represented the EDF Youth Committee and was part of the ZeroCon Youth Delegation. In addition, among the 1.200+ participants on site (and over 13.000 online) from all over the world, we met numerous of our members and allies there, which is no surprise as this year’s ZeroCon theme was independent living, technology and political participation.

During the 3-days event, we got the opportunity to hear and learn about numerous interesting initiatives and projects on Independent Living from all the corners of the planet, and while for some it was questionable whether they are disabled-led or even in line with the UN CRPD (some were definitely not), many were really great examples on how disabled people can achieve independent living and live in the community with choice and control. From Japan and Uganda to Latin America and Turkey (and many other countries in between) we heard of some wonderful practices that make our movement proud and strong, and we created new connections and alliances. As for the practices that have a “problematic” in our opinion approach, this was a reminder that we have to continue the fight and keep advocating for our values, guided always by the Convention of course.

From our side, both Kamil and Nina had an active role in the Conference. Kamil spoke at the Forum on Personal Care and Caretaking, bringing to the discussion the debate ‘support versus care’, and next day he also chaired the session on Empowering Persons with Disabilities to Become Self-Advocates, where interesting initiatives on methods on how to empower self-advocacy from every continent were presented. Nina from her side, was part of the first ever ZeroCon Youth Delegation, and together with other youngsters had a very active participation, doing interviews, participating in specific meeting and talking with the participants of the Conference about the importance of youth engagement.

At the closing session it was announced that the Zero Project Conference of 2024 will be dedicated to technology, inclusive education and inclusive arts, and we are looking forward to it! We will do our best to be there again, proud, strong and visible!

You can watch most of the sessions of the ZeroCon23 here, and see some of the highlights at the hashtag #ZeroCon23 on social media.