Q&A with Ather Sharif, Creator of The Accessible World Conference #TAW16 in Philadelphia
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Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I became a quadriplegic in a car accident only three years back. Before that, I had been a web developer as well but had no knowledge of the limitations people with disabilities face to navigate the Web. Hence, I developed websites and web apps that were not accessible at all. Going through the spinal cord injury, I saw this aspect of life and made it my life’s goal to advocate for Web accessibility and develop universally designed solutions. My work with EvoXLabs reflects that. The conference, like our other events, are examples of how each one of us can carry out grassroots initiatives pertaining to accessibility utilizing the resources that are already around us. This conference in particular, for me, helps in advocating and learning from accessibility initiatives run by individuals and organizations from all around the globe coming in from different backgrounds, cultures, and disciplines. For me, that’s the best way to learn and form new ideas.
Q: Why did you create The Accessible World Conference?
A little bit about it:
The Accessible World Conference is the first of its kind conference focused on building better and accessible communities through the experiences of experts from all around the globe. This conference is being organized as part of the Philly Tech Week.
The Accessible World will provide a platform to several students, professionals and researchers to share their work on making this world a more accessible place. This conference will cover six different tracks: Technology, Education, Media, Healthcare, Recreation, and Policy and Public Sector and will attract nationwide as well as international audience. There will also be lightning talks from several people with disabilities. This two day conference will help the audience stay up to date with the recent advancements in the area of Accessibility and learn ways to keep their organization/community in sync with such advancements.
How it came together:
There are several people across the globe that are passionate about accessibility or have carried out grassroots efforts to do something that made their organization/community/surroundings more accessible to people with disabilities. These efforts are hardly ever streamlined. If somebody else wants to or has a need to carry out a similar initiative, there’s rarely ever a previous example or even motivation per se. Hence, this conference. This is not an academic conference but rather a TEDx type conference where speakers share the motivation behind their work and how can the audience take it to their respective communities and implement it. This makes our audience not just the policy makers and decision makers of organizations but every single employee of every single organization so we can make this community better and accessible, or in more appropriate words - universally designed.
- We already have two speakers from outside USA.
- The venue is the Skyline room of FLP.
- AccessComputing (based in UW, Seattle) awarded us with a mini grant.
- There’s a 75% early bird discount till March 1.
- Organizations buying tickets in bulk will get a 90% discount.
- It’s going to be awesome.
For more information and to register, visit http://theaccessibleworld.com/
Q: There's a hackathon happening too? What is some tech you wish existed that has not been created yet?
Yes! It’s our third evoHaX. In our previous Hackathons we’ve lacked the presence of hardware. This time we have full access to 3D printing, woodworks, electronics and industrial design labs which our participants can use to build amazing solutions for people with disabilities.
Q: How can readers get involved or help if we are not in Philadelphia?
We’re in need of volunteers to help us with ideas to make these events more accessible and more inclusive, and spreading the word so we can advocate for accessibility in better and creative ways.
Q: What's next for you after April?
Good question. We’re going to be looking into open data to develop informative solutions to advocate for accessibility in the summers.
Q: What does "diversability" mean to you?
To me, it means one room filled with people coming from diverse backgrounds, cultures and abilities. Universal design, to sum it all.