Accessibility in Virtual Worlds


What is a Virtual World?


A virtual world is an animated three-dimensional world created with computer graphics imagining (CGI) and other rendering software. One of the hallmarks of a virtual world is that a user can interact within the environment by virtue of an avatar, or computerised character that represents the user. The avatar manipulates and interacts with objects in the virtual world by mouse movements and keystrokes issued by the user. In simple terms, the avatar is a remote controlled character or proxy. (Source: WiseGeek).

There are many virtual worlds, one of the most well known probably being 'Second Life'.

Second Life (SL) is a 3-D virtual world that blurs the lines between gaming and social networking and has 3.3 million residents. You begin by making a graphical representation of yourself (known as an avatar) and then you can explore the world by walking or flying around, meet other residents, buy land and build a house, and set up your own business - Second Life even has its own currency that can be converted into US dollars. As well as the residents, real world institutions have a presence there, from the BBC to Harvard University. The appeal for many seems to lie in the combination of social networking, fantastical landscapes and having an alter ego that is maybe cooler than you are in the real world. Looking around the blogosphere, it is clear that there is great interest in Second Life from people with mobility issues. (Source: BBC).

What is the relevance of virtual worlds to Accessibility?


Perhaps the virtual world can teach us something about the real world. They say you should walk a mile in someone’s shoes before passing judgement on them and in a virtual world you can. In a blog about “therapeutic escapism” (there is, for example a community using SL to help recover from strokes) Wayne Porter asks, “If it [Second Life] can be therapeutic for some individuals who are ill could it not be used in reverse… to sensitize people to the realities of life with a disability?” (Original article: BBC)

Accessibility becomes an issue if people with a disability can't participate.

Back in 2007, Peter Abrahams (Practice Leader - Accessibility and Usability Bloor Research) wrote in his blog, "
  • Anyone that has a vision impairment and uses a screen reader to access a computer and the web can not access SL, because even the textual information displayed in the client is not accessible by the screen reader.
  • Anyone who has a musculoskeletal impairment and can not, or prefers not, to use a mouse or other pointing device can not access large parts of SL. The latest version has added some more keyboard controls but I still get stuck if I do not use the mouse.
Using Second Life with Autism:


Using Second Life with Cerebral Palsy:



This next video shows Judith, who has cerebral palsy, being interviewed about her Second Life experience. Judith uses a head wand and keyboard to use a computer and spends a lot of time at 'Wheelies' in SL, a club set up by Simon Walsh who also has cerebral palsy. (Source: RNIB).

Virtual Links



Virtual Worlds by Category (Source: Virtual Worlds Review)


Best for Kids

Disney's Toontown
Mokitown
Virtual Magic Kingdom
Whyville

Best for Teens

Coke Studios
Dubit
Habbo Hotel
The Manor
The Palace
Playdo
Second Life for Teens
The Sims Online
Sora City
There
TowerChat
whyrobbierocks.com
Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates

Best for 20s - 30s

Active Worlds
Cybertown
Dreamville
The Manor
Moove
Muse
The Palace
Second Life
The Sims Online
Sora City
TowerChat
There
Virtual Ibiza
Voodoo Chat
VP Chat
VZones
Worlds.com
Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates

Best for Ages 40+

The Manor
Moove
The Palace
There
Traveler
VP Chat
Voodoo Chat
Worlds.com
Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates
Best for Techies

Active Worlds
Cybertown
Muse
Second Life

Best for Newbies

Coke Studios
Dubit
Habbo Hotel
Playdo
The Sims Online
There
TowerChat
Virtual Magic Kingdom
VP Chat
VZones
whyrobbierocks.com
Whyville
Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates

Best for Artists

Active Worlds
Cybertown
Muse
Second Life
There
Worlds.com

Best for Dial-Up

Coke Studios
Dubit
Habbo Hotel
The Manor
Mokitown
The Palace
Playdo
TowerChat
Traveler
Virtual Ibiza
Voodoo Chat
VP Chat
VZones
Whyville
Worlds.com
Free Access!

Active Worlds
Coke Studios
Dreamville
Dubit
Habbo Hotel
Mokitown
Moove
Muse
The Palace
Playdo
Second Life
Sora City
There
TowerChat
Traveler
Virtual Ibiza
Virtual Magic Kingdom
Voodoo Chat
whyrobbierocks.com
Whyville
Worlds.com
Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates

Mac Access

Coke Studios
Dubit
Habbo Hotel
The Manor
Mokitown
The Palace
Playdo
Second Life
TowerChat
Virtual Ibiza
VZones
whyrobbierocks.com
Whyville
Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates

Best for Broadband

Active Worlds
Cybertown
Disney's Toontown
Dreamville
Moove
Muse
Second Life
The Sims Online
There
Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates



More pages