Sunday, March 14, 2010

Second Life(r) Disability Resources

Second Life (R) for people with disabilities

When I first started looking at Second Life (R) as a platform for education one of the biggest concerns expressed by those not particularly knowledgeable about virtual worlds in general and Second Life (R) specifically was that it cannot be used by people with disabilities. This statement directly contradicted what I was seeing around me and what I was hearing from people in Second Life (R).

Virtual Ability island provides a haven for people with disabilities to experience virtual worlds. A place for people to safely take their first steps into the virtual world, an orientation site for people who are experiencing Second Life (R) for the first time, and an informational resources for educators and businesses seeking information on resources for people with disabilities Virtual Ability Island provides a variety of information. There is a Virtual Ability mentor available at all times on the island to answer your questions. Below is a screenshot of an information board in Second Life (R):

This is the Slurl to Virtual Abilityand the Virtual Ability Website is available here.

In my opinion Virtual Ability Island is a must see stop in Second Life (R) for educators, business people and anyone who has an interest in knowing more about how Virtual Worlds / Second Life (R) can benefit those with disabilities. It is the hub for information and resources for anyone who is entering Second Life (R) for the first time.

I recently attended the Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education conferences, one of the sessions I attended was related to the use of Second Life (R) for people with disabilities. While there Hydra Shaftoe related his experiences in using Second Life (R) and his experiences in hiring people with disablities to do work in Second Life (R).

Another community that you will want to famliarize your self with is that of the Gimp Girl Community. From their website they describe themselves as:

GimpGirl Community, a program of People Helping People, is a place where women with disabilities come together to share their lives, experiences, problems and successes, in a safe space that focuses more on our commonality as women, and less on what disabilities they have. Members are valued and respected because of who they are, and that has always included women with disabilities of all ages, colors, and sexual orientations. Our current partners and academics are also welcome to work with us in furthering our goals.

The Second Life (R) site for Gimp Girl is here at theattached SLURL. Because of the immersive nature of virtual worlds people with disabilities may experience freedom associated wtih movement, communication and experiences that they cannot have in their physical or "real world." Below are some snapshots from the Gimp Girl site in Second Life (R):

People with disabilities who use a wheelchair in real life have the option to use one in Second Life (R) or not, it is up to them. If they feel comfortable in Second Life (R) without the wheelchair they have that choice. There are many sites with wheelchairs available this is one at Gimp Girl:

The use of Second Life (R) in providing an avenue for communication, interaction and even employment opportunities for people with autism is proven to be effective. Here I am outside the headquarters for the Autism Awareness Center.

The environment of Second Life (R) provides practitioners with an opportunity to simulate the experiences of an individual with autism, provide information, and a meeting place for individuals with autism in Second Life (R).

This photo provides a simulation of what a person with autism may have while trying to concentrate or focus on something:

Below is an example of information boards for individuals with autism:

TheUniversity of Derby is conducting research into communication disorders at their lab in Second Life (R), from a notecard, written by Milton Broome received in-world indicates that the research is as follows:

Research with communication impaired people in Second Life (R).
We are currently setting up research in Second Life (R) that will investigate the effectiveness of the grid to enhance first life social-communication skills in people diagnosed with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome. I am particularly interested in the use of Second Life (R) to reach out to groups of people who show communication and social impairments. The unique virtual world of Second Life (R) could provide an environment where interventions and experiments that may be considered unethical or impossible in real life can be easily conducted whilst assuring the safety of the participants. Other research currently under consideration is the use of Second Life (R) in sensory controlled environments to utilize communication skills and reduce sensory distractions.

Via its strong social networking tools Second Life (R) provides the opportunity to establish groups or join an existing group the provides support and information for those working with individuals with disabilities and join with those who share your disability. Simply doing a search via the search tool in Second Life (R) will allow you to see what groups exist on the grid that may be related to what you are seeking. I have included information on some of the groups below I have no idea on how active these groups are:

Some profiles of these groups are as follows:

Health Discussion Leaders:

Charter: This group is an offshoot of The Health Support Coalition. Where the Coalition is focused on assisting leaders of peer-support groups dealing with health and disability issues, the Health Discussion Leaders group is meant for those who a) present topics of interest in the fields of health and disability or b) wish to be informed of such topics.

"Health" is meant to include physical, mental, and emotional improvement and wellness.

Open Enrollment

Open Gates Peer Support community is a place for Second Life (R) residents with disabilities --ANY disability-- to turn for support.

Living with a disability can be difficult (understatement) and our goal is to be a desperately-needed 24/7 support channel. for people with disabilities. The gates are always open.

People who need someone to talk to can simply type in the Open Gates channel, and chat there, or use it to ask to IM or meet privately.

In my search around the grid for resources for people with disabltiies I even found a nightclub Wheelies 74, nice profile picture huh? And here is their website address.

With resources, sites like Virtual Ability Island, communication tools, groups, and practitioners in world Second Life (R) proves too be a rich asset for people who may have a disability. If you have not yet accessed it then I encourage you to may prove to be just what you or someone you know is looking for. Before beginning though I suggest you go through Virtual Ability Island first.