“Many say technologies make things easier, for people with disabilities technologies make things possible.” Knut Ellingsen, vice president of the European Federation of Hard of Hearing (EFHOH)
The future is bright. As part of the development of How Do I?, and thanks to Swiss Cottage School Development and Research Centre’s Erasmus+ funding, Tom and I attended this year’s Zero Project Conference in Vienna, Austria from February 10th through to the 12th. We had the opportunity to engage with experts in assistive technology, inclusive education and vocational studies from all over the world, heard answers to thought-provoking questions we hadn’t even thought to ask, and took in the diversity and richness of the worldwide community of those making life better for people with disabilities. It felt like we’d had a real glimpse into a more inclusive future.
There are a lot ways to describe the conference: inspirational, helpful, exciting… The biggest challenge, perhaps, is to describe the Zero Project conference in a way that doesn’t sound overly contrived. The truth is that it meant many things to us, and introduced us to some of the most innovative and passionate people involved in inclusive education and assistive technology today. One of the many memorable participants and speakers, Judy Heumann, a lifelong disability rights activist, encouraged conference participants to share their stories, and explained how her own story has been a powerful tool for awareness of issues relating to inclusivity. Caroline Casey, social entrepreneur and advocate for accessibility, moderated and chaired much of the activity on Thursday; she has an incredible story to share, and you can watch or listen to her TED Talk here.
Our initial aim in developing How Do I? was to respond to a question asked time and time again: how can lifeskills be taught in a more independent way to people with learning difficulties? The Zero Project conference reminded us of the many other questions out there: how can I get a job when my skills are overlooked due to my learning disability? How can we collect better data to measure outcomes for people with disabilities? What does inclusive education really mean, and what does it look like? How can we finance projects to support better life chances for people with disabilities? What technologies are going to make the biggest impact towards an inclusive society? This conference introduced us to energetic and passionate people from all walks of life, out in the world and trying to figure out the answer to all these questions- and in turn, asking more.
The quote that opens this blog post was delivered in a session to Zero Project Conference participants in 2014, and really sums up the message of the project: possibility. We were proud to show How Do I? off alongside other innovators who are, together, shaping what’s to come.
We’d encourage anyone and everyone to find out more about the Zero Project via their website, zeroproject.org.