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Zero Project Conference 2013


Once again, the Essl Foundation, the World Future Council and Bank Austria have joined forces to convene an international conference in Vienna, Austria. On this occasion, in collaboration with the International Labour Organization, we aim to raise awareness about innovative solutions from around the world that implement employment rights of persons with disabilities.  The conference  seeks to strengthen the commitment of all stakeholders to promote, protect and advance the rights of persons with disabilities, and to improve their employment situation.

WHEN? 18 and 19 February 2013
WHERE? Vienna, Austria

Decent Work: Nothing more, nothing less

At the second Zero Project Conference on “Employment Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Innovative Policies and Innovative Practices” parliamentarians, representatives of NGOs and foundations, academics, social entrepreneurs, disability rights activists and the business world will come together to discuss 11 Innovative Policies and 40 Innovative Practices from all around the world and explore ways to promote and spread them to other countries.

Together, Innovative Policies and Innovative Practices get to the bottom of many of the most critical issues concerning the employment rights of persons with disabilities which stakeholders around the world are required by the UN Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities to ensure. These issues include, for example, access to apprenticeships, special support for persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, employment services, microfinance, working conditions and return to work.

Innovative Policies: Paving the Way

Building on the success of our first conference in January 2012, at this Zero Project Conference, 11 Innovative Policies will be presented. They contain promising elements, have achieved identifiable improvements on the ground and point to a positive dynamic change that can be easily replicated in many countries around the world to advance the implementation of the Convention. They overcome conditions that act as barriers to the full exercise of employment rights by persons with disabilities and constitute the outcome of a multilevel research and selection process:

·    For establishing the right to a three-year youth education after primary and lower secondary school: the Danish Act on Secondary Education of Youth with Special Needs.
·    For introducing the right to an inclusive company-based vocational training: the Austrian Vocational Training Act.
·    For facilitating the removal of workplace barriers, while offering to persons with disabilities the means and support to find or retain a job: the Australian JobAccess Programme.
·    For its comprehensive approach to overcome work-related obstacles resulting from disability: the British Access to Work Programme.
·    For recognizing that supported employment is an effective means through which people with high support needs can obtain meaningful employment: the Spanish Royal Decree on Rules for the Supported Employment Programme.
·    For facilitating meaningful employment for people with intellectual disabilities through ongoing support that pays at least the minimum wage: Job Trainer Supports Programme of 1986 of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
·    For successfully helping mental health service clients with finding paid work: the British Individual Placement and Support.
·    For revoking discriminatory provisions, under which operators of sheltered workshops were given a blanket exemption from minimum wage and holiday and sick leave legislation: New Zealand’s Disabled Persons Employment Promotion Repeal Act.
·    For establishing that, in case of lesser capability because of illness or acquired disability, employers must make all reasonable efforts to retain the worker: the Swedish Employment Protection Act.
·    For enabling employees to recover and return to employment: the Malaysian Return to Work Programme.
·    For establishing, as the first federal state in the world to do so, Peer Counselling as a social profession: Upper Austria’s Social Professions Act.

Innovative Practices: Crucial Steps

40 innovative practices from around the world will be presented at the Zero Project Conference 2013. The selection process for these “Innovative Practices” was a multistep approach, involving a network of experts at every step.

The implementation of many of the practices has not been restricted to any particular global region. There are examples of practices in Latin America and in both Australia and New Zealand. One innovative practice’s reach includes: Bangladesh, China, India, Liberia, Pakistan and Uganda. And four other, separate, practices have been implemented in India alone. The Middle East is represented with an example from Lebanon. In addition to Canada, Europe, Scandinavia and the USA, in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Moldova and Poland practices are also represented. And, then, there are practices that, because they are Internet-based, transcend all geographical boundaries, becoming truly borderless.

Individual disabilities addressed by specific practices include: autism spectrum disorders, intellectual and developmental disabilities, psychosocial disabilities, sight impairment and blindness, auditory impairment and deafness. And then there are other practices that address, without distinction, all persons with disabilities.

Some of these innovative practices have already gone international, so that, taken together, they are implemented in a further 25 countries across all continents. In addition, a significant proportion of the 40 innovative practices actually provide direct employment for persons with disabilities at workplaces that especially support their special skills.