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Zero Project award event

30 March 2015

On 25 - 27 February, Banane Nafeh and Michael Paul attended the Zero Project Conference at the United Nations in Vienna

The Zero Project awarded the Disability Rights UK Independent Living/Self-Directed Support Helpline a prize for ‘Innovative Practice in Independent Living’. We were delighted to be invited to attend and deliver a presentation on our work as part of the conference.

The Zero Project is an initiative of the Essl Foundation and ‘focuses on the rights of disabled persons globally’. Zero project’s mission is to work for a world without barriers. They take a solutions based approach; seeking to identify the most innovative and effective policies and practices that improve the lives of people with disabilities. They then share the findings via a report and a conference, delivered in partnership with the World Future Council and the European Foundation Centre.


The theme for 2015 was ‘Independent Living & Political Participation’, and the conference was attended by more than 500 ‘decision makers’ from 50 countries.

The conference opened on Weds night with the awards ceremony, and Banane collected our award; recognising her hard work, dedication and commitment to improving the lives of disabled people.

Banane Nafeh with our Zero Project award

 The conference ‘proper’ kicked off on Thursday morning with an opening plenary, before the first of thirty five separate events covering the theme of Independent Living over the two full days.

UN Building

Banane and I weren’t presenting until Friday morning, so we decided we would attend different events, meaning we were able to take in as many innovative policies and practices as possible. Throughout Thursday, we attended workshops and panel discussions with topics such as ‘New Professions for Persons with Disabilities’; ‘The Personal Assistance Budget’; ‘Peer Support Models for Austria/Peer Counselling’; ‘Service Providers & How Change Can Be Successful’; ‘Corporate Strategies Supporting Employment and Inclusion’; and ‘Worldwide Data and Statistics on Independent Living and Political Participation’.

Our own session was entitled ‘International Peer Support Models: Empowering Persons with Disabilities’. Coincidentally also presenting during this session was Disability Rights UK Trustee, Ian Loynes, on behalf of SPECTRUM, the Southampton based CIL of which he is Chief Executive.

 Banane, Michaell Paul and Ian Loynes

The panel also consisted of representatives from Luxembourg, Austria and Australia. Ian led us off with a presentation on ‘How User Led Organisations (ULOs) work in the UK’.

Our own presentation took in our work, a short overview of the organisation, and our plans to develop the line in future.

Following our session, we attended events on ‘New Models for Community Based Living’; ‘Solutions from the Global South’; ‘Women’s Empowerment’, as well as the final plenary session, which covered Zero Project 2016 – The Way Forward. We made some excellent contacts and had some very good discussions with fellow delegates from many countries including Greece, Dubai, Germany, Colombia, South Africa, Uganda & The Gulf, which we hope to take forward for the benefit of DR UK.

The Zero Project Report and Conference 2016 will focus on UN CRPD Article 24, which concerns inclusive education. We feel that in the Disability Rights UK Disabled Student Helpline, we have a strong contender for another award!

Michael Paul


Ian Loynes and Banane Nafeh