BRIDGE Showcase on Disability Rights and Elections
21 February 2023
Showcase: Disability Rights at the Zero Conference 2023
At the request of the Zero Project, IFES hosted a showcase of the BRIDGE module on Disability Rights and Elections at the Zero Conference in Vienna, Austria. The Zero Conference, an annual global conference on disability-related issues with a thematic focus, had the theme Independent Living, Political Participation and ICT for the 2023 conference held from 21 to 24 February. The specific BRIDGE Module was presented in the backdrop of this theme. The showcase facilitated by Rushdi Nackerdien (lead), Silja Paasilina, and Virginia Atkinson, who drafted the original module, served as an excellent introduction to political participation issues before the conference started.
IFES managed a registration process of participants beforehand as the event preceded the conference on 20 February and the limited space availability. The showcase held in the historic Austrian Parliament, built in 1883, lasted for four hours. It was the first public event held in the building since it was re-opened after refurbishment to increase access for people with disabilities.
30 participants from disabled persons organizations, EMBs, government offices, and the private sector, such as Google, attended the showcase. Participants from various countries such as Chile, USA, Jordan, India, and Israel were present.
Adapting activities for the audience, the showcase was conducted in the Austrian Parliament, which is not necessarily geared for participatory training, with fixed tables and limited space to move. Physical movement activities were switched to the use of colored cards with different shapes for indicating choices. Group work was carefully assessed to fit the space, handouts were limited, and PowerPoint was made accessible for people with disabilities.
A “privilege walk” was held in the massive hallway in the Austrian Parliament to examine the challenges faced by marginalized voters in elections. The showcase was a hit with participants, and anecdotal feedback from at least one regular conference-goer indicated that the showcase was one of the best things at the conference this year. These 30 showcase participants were then able to mingle and interact with more than 1000 conference-goers and spread the word. Due to the success of the showcase, plans are underway to conduct similar BRIDGE showcases at future Zero Conferences with different themes.