Though he moved to Chicago last summer for a year of exploration, accessibility expert and Comcast technologist Ather Sharif still calls Philly home.
From his new homebase, where he’s looking to connect to the local tech community and get a taste of the midwest, Sharif is already making moves: This week, he joined the kickoff session for the 2018 class of the ADA 25 Advancing Leadership Fellows, a Chicago-based leadership training program for people with disabilities.
“I can’t wait to see the impact and change we will make to ensure equal opportunity and involvement of people with disabilities here in Chicago and beyond,” the founder said in December, when he was admitted into the program.
For the next year, Sharif and 19 other fellows will have a access to training and join a network of other 90 ADA 25 members. The aim of the program has specific ties to social impact: it seeks to build a pipeline of leaders with disabilities who can engage in the civic life of the Chicago region.
“This program connects people with disabilities with intense training throughout the year,” Sharif said. “The idea is to place people with disabilities on the board of national nonprofits to increase their involvement. It will also allows me to get involved with the region to understand the startup community here.”
Sharif became a quadriplegic after a 2013 car accident. Two years later, the Saint Joseph’s University alum founded EvoXLabs), an initiative that seeks to bridge the gap between tech and people with disabilities. Just before he moved to Chicago, the founder led a hackathon focused on accessibility tech projects.
The work of EvoXLabs will continue, Sharif said. In 2018 it will continue a co-op program that will connect students to hands-on experience in web accessibility and accessible technologies.
“EvoXLabs started and grew in Philly but it was always meant to be a national thing,” the technologist said. “It was supposed to be a movement or a place where people could come to the table and educate themselves.”
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