“For Ather, tech accessibility is also a personal mission and passion. The Comcast software engineer became a quadriplegic in 2013 due to a tragic car accident in North Dakota.”
Philly tech advocate and Google Scholar Ather Sharif partners with the annual popular #techInColor event as part of Philly Tech Week 2017 presented by Comcast. #techInColor, a volunteer tech organization, will hold this year’s event on Tuesday, May 2, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Benjamin’s Desk a co-working facility at 1608 Walnut St.
“I wanted to be part of an event that is geared towards accessibility where we can make a statement and give accessibility a stronger voice and recognition in Philadelphia, especially as part of big event like Philly Tech Week,” says Ather on why he signed on as a co-organizer for #techInColor.
This year’s theme is “#techInColor presents Accessibility Hacks: Keeping Tech Inclusive for Everyone.” It is presented in partnership with Ather’s organization EvoXLabs. The gathering is to ensure tech is kept accessible for people with disabilities.
Now in its 4th year, #techInColor, which celebrates diversity with a different annual theme, is tailored for underrepresented groups in the tech industry: African Americans and technologists of color, women, the LGBTQ Community, individuals with disabilities, and more diverse groups.
“Through events such as this we hope to encourage businesses, individuals, volunteers, and the community to get involved in support of our mission,” says #techInColor co-organizers, Kevin Taylor, Tracy Levesque and Monica Peters.
For Ather, tech accessibility is also a personal mission and passion. The Comcast software engineer became a quadriplegic in 2013 due to a tragic car accident in North Dakota. He then came to Philadelphia for rehabilitation. He loved the city and decided to stay.
“I gave up, and didn’t use a computer for a year from 2013-2014,” Ather admitted during his 2015 Philly Geek of the Year Award acceptance speech, noting that he temporarily lost hope after his accident.
At the time of the accident, he had been a web developer for seven years.
With encouragement from friends, Ather continued to pursue his goals and received his Masters in Computer Science from Saint Joseph’s University.
Having a deep understanding of the limitations people with disabilities face particularly in accessing information on the Web, Ather founded EvoXLabs to bring the tech community, researchers and people with disabilities in Philadelphia to advocate and work together to achieve universal web design.
The rest is history.
Tuesday’s #techInColor gathering will feature lightning talks from accessibility experts to address everything from design and development to keeping workplaces inclusive for individuals with varying levels of physical ability. Technologists who develop and specialize in accessible tech will demonstrate their products. Urban Affairs Coalition also collaborates with #techInColor this year providing fiscal management sponsorship.
Ather is very clear on why all Philadelphians (disabled or not) should attend the event.
“The #techinColor event creates awareness on what accessibility is, why its important, what is being done in that field and how somebody can contribute to it.”
Presenters at the event are Scott Armstrong , Software Developer at Comcast; Mikey Ilagan, from Comcast QA team and Think Company; Jeffrey Becker, Sr. Software Developer at JMT; and Neil McDevitt, Executive Director, Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre, Inc.
Whether a seasoned technology professional or seeking to learn about the tech industry, the #techInColor event is for all. The gathering will offer plenty of networking, food, drinks and fun. The gathering is free.
#techinColor,Tuesday May 2, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Benjamin’s Desk, 1608 Walnut St. For more information visit tech-in-color.org
About the Organizers
Kevin Taylor, Founder and Principal Analyst of Argyle Analytics, is also a co-founder of #techInColor. Kevin has worked with local entrepreneurs, higher education, the U.S. Government and Fortune 500 corporations over the last 10 years helping develop training systems and management structures that enhance workplace learning and organizational performance. Kevin moved to the Philadelphia region after graduating summa cum laude from Boise State University. Kevin’s consulting practice specializes in helping organizations develop training systems that align with organizational goals and knowledge management systems that support employee performance. Kevin is a passionate advocate for celebrating diversity within organizations since it adds to the richness of training solutions. You can learn more about Kevin and his consulting practice at argyleanalytics.net
Ather Sharif, is the Founder of EvoXLabs, Philly’s 2015 Geek of the Year, a Google Scholar and a recent graduate with a Masters in Computer Science from Saint Joseph’s University. He also serves as a Software Engineer at Comcast’s Cloud Platforms Team. EvoXLabs.org
Tracy Levesque, co-owner and co-founder of YIKES, Inc.
Tracy is the co-owner and co-founder of YIKES, Inc., a Philadelphia web design and development shop located in the vibrant neighborhood of Fishtown.. At YIKES you can find her managing projects, running discovery meetings and working on business development with her wife and co-owner, Mia. Tracy still loves to code working on building WordPress themes and plugins.Tracy also loves to teach and present on all things WordPress. She has spoken at WordCamps Philly, New York, Montreal, San Francisco, San Diego and Lancaster. She was also a contributor to multiple versions of WordPress. As a Girl Develop It instructor, Tracy writes curriculum for and teaches the WordPress track for Girl Develop It Philly.
Monica Peters, Founder of Genius in Collaboration PR™️
Communications executive, motivational speaker and tech junkie who has worked with clients from Philadelphia to Oakland. Her projects range from entertainment to tech advocacy projects including working in collaboration with a tech enterprise as their national press liaison for the 2014 White House inaugural My Brother’s Keeper Hackathon initiative in Philadelphia. Peters also spoke at Texas A&M University last year. Gncpr.com
Fiscal Management Sponsor
The Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC) are a Coalition of 55+ partner organizations, large and small, working on diverse issues that immediately affect communities. We strengthen nonprofit organizations through fiscal sponsorship, capacity building, and program evaluation; improve life chances for youth and young adults; and provide economic opportunity to low-income households, working families, and disadvantaged businesses. The Coalition unites government, business, neighborhoods, and individual initiative to improve the quality of life in the region, build wealth in urban communities, and solve emerging issues. uac.org