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How a Zurich music festival lit a spark for inclusion

Switzerland has pledged to promote the inclusion of people with mental disabilities in society, but progress has been slow. One music festival in Zurich is experimenting with a grassroots way to support inclusion and empathy.

The concert hall at the Red Factory cultural centre in Zurich is full. The audience applauds, sings along and cheers on the performers. What seems like a typical, successful music festival is at a closer glance an effort to foster inclusion and empathy of people with disabilities.  On stage and in the audience, people with and without mental disabilities have come together to sing, celebrate and cheer each other on.

But the festival, Soundsyndrom taking place in Zurich for the second time, is still an exception. Switzerland is lagging behind when it comes to inclusion, says Andrea Brill of  Tobias Haus a residential home for people with mental disabilities, which organised the event earlier this month.

“Switzerland is not living up to the commitments in the convention,” she says.  A shadow report on the implementation of the CRPD  in Switzerland found several areas where people with disabilities face discrimination.  It states, “An inclusive Switzerland in which people with disabilities can live independently in all areas of life is still far off, despite a partial legal basis for this.”

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