Virtual ability

April 26th, 2010

Two weeks ago, I attended an educational seminar in Second Life.  I’d done this before, but this time there was a twist:  we were goig to visit Virtual Ability Island.  The Virginia Society for Technology in Education (VSTE) has a robust SL group who organized this “field trip.”  We all met at VSTE Island and then teleported to Virtual Ability Island.

I should have figured it out ahead of time, but I just didn’t.  This island was built with real-life people with disabilities in mind.  All walkways were flat or ramped to meet ADA requirements and had railings to keep people (i.e., avatars) from falling off.  The session opened at a beautiful outdoor amphitheater with a short presentation by two volunteers who regularly give orientation tours to new SL members.  The tours are open to anyone, with or without disabilities.

You might think that part of the allure of SL for someone with disabilities is that they don’t have to worry about getting around — after all, avatars do fly!  But the guides pointed out that many accessibility issues still exist.  For example, the visually impaired use screen readers that need to have some way of marking space, even in Second Life.  So, on Virtual Ability Island, all seats in the amphitheater are numbered so that the screen reader can direct the user to a seat.  Also, for people with fine motor difficulties, the creators of Virtual Ability Island put all signs at a certain tilt so that visitors would not have to manipulate the camera controls to see the entire message. 

As a person without disabilities, I still found the orientation session helpful.  I got to fly and land on a target.  I also learned how to open treasure chests and receive gifts.  Everywhere along the paths on Virtual Ability Island were informational signs and links to help desks.  I highly recommend you visit, if you live in Second Life!

3 Responses to “Virtual ability”

  1. loriandersen on April 28, 2010 12:07 pm

    Very interesting story! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Steve Coxon on April 29, 2010 7:54 am

    Thanks for sharing! I have a friend who went blind after a heart problem a few years ago. He is now a stay-at-home dad and probably looking for things like this!

  3. Sue Land on May 3, 2010 10:53 am

    I’m sorry I missed this opportunity but emailed Laura Briggs and she offered me a another opportunity for a virtual tour. I hope to do this soon. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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