Why this advocate keeps hosting accessibility hackathons on her birthday - Technical.ly Philly

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Apr. 26, 2019 12:14 pm

Why this advocate keeps hosting accessibility hackathons on her birthday

For the third year in a row, Alanna Raffel will spend her birthday working to make the internet more accessible to people with disabilities. Join her describe-a-thon on May 11.
Alanna Raffel’s birthday party last year.

Alanna Raffel's birthday party last year.

(Courtesy photo)

To celebrate her 30th birthday in 2017, occupational therapist and accessibility advocate Alanna Raffel got her friends together to create a database of physically accessible venues in Philly.

The following year, as she hit 31, she reassembled the group to add captions to popular YouTube videos.

This year, in honor of her 32nd birthday, Raffel is organizing a describe-a-thon: On May 11, she’ll gather friends and family to add image descriptions to popular Facebook pages, memes and other sites in a push to increase access to the internet for people who use adaptive technology like screen readers.

Additionally, accessible technology expert Lynne Maleef will be at the event to give a quick lesson on how to interact with someone who is blind, and how to use something called the sighted guide technique to help a blind person navigate a space.

Whereas some celebrate their lap around the sun by going to a fancy dinner, tossing axes at wooden targets or salsa dancing, Raffel has gotten into the habit of infusing her passion of accessibility into her personal life. What makes her want to keep the birthday celebration going?

“I think the main reason I like to use my birthday for this is because my birthday makes me feel like I have special power,” Raffel said in an email. “My friends and family are really supportive all the time, of course, but it is the one time of year that I feel like I can really say ‘hey, please do this thing that matters to me’ and nobody bats an eye. Might as well use that super power for good.

The event, happening at 1213 Walnut St. in Center City, is free.

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