Welcome to Virtual Abilities: Assistive Tech Meets 3d Virtual Worlds


This past weekend, I was able to attend the grand opening of Virtual Abilities, Inc. (VAI).

Virtual Abilities Inc. is an organization that is currently based in Second Life, offering information, assistance and community information, community and assistance to and about special needs and abilities. This includes information about assistive technologies and their use in accessing virtual worlds in general and Second Life in particular, as well as best practices in designing spaces and activities in Virtual Worlds to maximize universal access, accessible design, and inclusive welcoming attitude and environment.
That is my understanding, but let me quote a few lines from Gentle Heron’s speech during the opening.
[13:34] Gentle Heron:
“Yesterday a reporter asked me a question I had not been asked yet about this island. “Why are you doing this?? After explaining that it wasn’t me personally, but instead a whole community of people working together toward a common goal, I had to think on my feet, because that was not a question I had prepared an answer for. I thought first of the research that underlies the big picture here. A recent survey of 2,700 people with disabilities who play casual games online (meaning Second Life, not WoW) shows that about 20% of these gamers have a physical, mental or developmental disability, compared to about 15% of the American population, according to our latest census. Playing was stress relief for 81%, 69% cited mood lifting as a benefit, and 66% said gaming distracted them from disability-related issues such as pain. Compared to all casual gamers worldwide, those with disabilities play more frequently, for more hours per week, and for longer times per session. SL really isn’t a game for our target population. The data backs this up.”
My understanding is that the full chatlog will be posted later at Healthinfo Island blog, one of the VAI partners.
http://healthinfoisland.blogspot.com/2008/08/virtual-ability-island-grand-opening.html
Here are more images of the Grand Opening event.
Flickr: SL Virtual Abilities Inc.: http://www.flickr.com/groups/virtualabilities
Here is a video of highlights from the event.

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