Guide dogs? Second Life? Wait a minute. Isn’t Second Life a video game? No, not a game, a 3d virtual world? How does that work if you need a guide dog? It can’t work, can it?
Actually, yes, it can. I won’t say that Second Life works perfectly for persons with visual impairments, but change is in the wind. Linden Labs is working with people at Virtual Ability and Virtual Health Hands and Wheelies to make changes in the Second Life browser to allow the 3d equivalent of ALT tags and LONGDESC in the 3D virtual world. Charles Mountain has done some amazing coding to create a guidedog (named Max) that can sense these tags or descriptions and allow people to use them to navigate. Max also helps people follow someone who knows where they are going or find a specific object that is named. This is all very exciting. I will spend some time in future blogposts going into more detail about this.
In the meantime, you can take a look at these notes from a presentation about Max earlier this year, or you can this week explore the Vision Quest creatively designed by Jenaia Morane for Virtual Helping Hands and start to learn a little bit more on a personal level about what Second Life is like for persons with visual disabilities. Follow the VisionQuest and you can “adopt” Max for your own Second Life as well (Max and other assistive devices are available as freebies during the VisionQuest).
More VisionQuest information available here.
More VisionQuest pictures available here.