Zero Project Conference on Employment – Work and Vocational Education:

(February 21 – 24, 2017, Vienna)

By Klaus Lachwitz- President Inclusion International

The Essl Foundation, an Austrian charitable foundation, was established in 2008 to finance and promote social activities. Today the focus is the Zero Project. This project finds and shares models that improve the daily lives and legal rights of all persons with disabilities.

Every year an annual conference is held in Vienna, Austria, to give persons with disabilities and experts from all over the world the chance to discuss a topic which is of utmost importance for the implementation of the human rights of persons with disabilities.

In 2016, the conference focused on “Innovative Policies and Practices of Inclusive Education”. This year the conference participants were asked to discuss “Inclusive Employment initiatives for persons with disabilities”. The main reason to link inclusive education and inclusive employment is the experience that there is a huge gap between inclusive education and inclusive employment. Many persons with disabilities who successfully finish inclusive education at school or university do not find a job. In the European Union, for instance, the rate of unemployment of persons with disability (18, 3 %) is almost twice that of the general population (9,9 %). And what is more, many persons with intellectual, psycho-social and multiple disabilities do not have access to the open labour market, but are forced to work in sheltered workshops and comparable settings.

In 2016 the Essl Foundation, therefore, called for nominations of Employment practices and received 56 examples of innovative practices, 11 innovative policies and 21 social indicators from 121 countries which are published in the Zero Project Report 2017.

Persons with disabilities and experts from all over the world were invited to the Zero Project 2017 Conference to present and discuss their innovative examples of inclusive employment. Klaus Lachwitz, President of Inclusion International, was asked to moderate the session: “Crafting successfully transitions from sheltered employment settings into the open labour market”.

The panelists represented Austria, Israel, Romania and the State of Vermont, USA:

These interesting statements reveal that despite of the extremely hesitant implementation by many countries of the Right to Work and Employment as described in Art. 27 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) there are many creative attempts made at global level to combine inclusive education with inclusive employment.