A world without barriers for people with disabilities
The Zero Project is an initiative of the Essl Foundation aiming to encourage the emergence of a world without barriers for children and adults with disabilities. Each year, the Conference builds on an article of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). This year it was Article 24 on inclusive education systems.
“Barriers to inclusion today are not of a physical nature – they are in our thinking”, said Caroline Casey, a social entrepreneur and the conference moderator, to introduce the plenary. During three days, policies and practices from all around the world illustrated how ICT and innovative solutions could improve the outcomes of children and young people with disabilities in schools, universities and in the labour market. Policies and practices covered community-based rehabilitation for young children, the prevention of bullying, non-formal education alternatives, accessible learning materials and web tools, and teachers, caregivers and parents’ training.
Using evidence to transform education and employment
Evidence could be useful for the development of disability-friendly policies and adaptations not only for people with disabilities, but also for businesses and society in general. In The United States, the SWIFT framework (School Wide Integrated Framework for Transformation) aims to support schools in analysing relevant policies to transform them towards inclusive education, and reported that this transformation had improved academic and behavioural outcomes for children. Speakers and participants made it clear that inclusion was beneficial to both disabled and non-disabled people. Businesses, too, have been increasingly seizing the opportunity to make their activities, products and teams more inclusive and accessible. “There is a real business case for the employment of people with disabilities”, said Stefan Trömel, from the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Innovative funding solutions for inclusion projects
Innovative funding solutions were presented, among which the innovation prizes organised by Nesta, England’s innovation agency. “Prizes act as a powerful incentive for meeting a specific challenge. They can help stimulate new ideas for some of the most difficult challenges we face”, said Constance Agyeman, senior programme manager.
Striking the balance between mainstreaming and specific interventions
Tension remains between the need to address specific, sometimes challenging situations linked to disability, while ensuring community inclusion, and equal rights, treatment and access to education. Promoting non-formal education, adopting a broader view of curricula and using alternative assessment methods and standards were stressed as a good means to bridge this gap.