|Virtual Ability Island: Use of assistive technology|
Second Life is a world in which people have a chance to explore, meet others, share ideas, shop, dance, and be free. For many, it is a world where everyday boundaries cease to exist. Such is the world also created at Virtual Ability. The organization, VirtualAbility, based in Colorado -- as well as in Second Life -- aims to help people with disabilities learn how to get around in a virtual world.
Virtual Ability, Inc. began when a group of friends realized the impact that a virtual environment can have on people and especially on people who had difficulty participating in the community in which they live.
At the Accessibility Center on Health Info Island they meet Lorelei Junot, a librarian who is responsible for setting up the Information Island archipelago within Second Life. She allowed them to use a plot of land on EduIsland 4, and the project began. The project was first named “The Heron Sanctuary” but was renamed to Virtual Ability, Inc. in 2008.
Virtual Ability Island in Second life is a place which focuses on teaching a variety of skills needed to be successful in a virtual world for people with disabilities. It provides orientation, training, and consumer health information for people with disabilities or chronic health conditions.
“For many people with disabilities, Second Life is not a game. It provides a whole new world where we can interact with others who share our concerns, where we can do things we never would be able to in real life.” notes Gentle Heron.
Virtual Ability Island Machinima
A specialized orientation experience is needed for people with disabilities who wish to enter Second Life, particularly if they use assistive technology to access their computers. HVX Silverstar’s machinima document several unique features of Virtual Ability Island’s newcomer experience. The three films viewed in sequence together provide an overview of the entire newcomer course on Virtual Ability Island. This course has been designed so that it is extremely easy for anyone to learn six basic skills of Second Life.
When the newcomer arrives to Orientation course, they are greeted with numerous aids that will help them practice and master the skills needed to be successful in a virtual world. For example, all of the signs are slanted slightly and have a beige-colored texture which make it easier for the visually impaired to read the directions on the signs. Sound files are added to the signs for people with vision impairments. Another very interesting feature is the support that is offered for both mac and pc users.
Maps are placed at various points along the path. These maps help the newcomer understand exactly where it is that they are, and how much more there is left in the course. Andragogic learning theory (about adult learning) and a spiral curriculum were used in designing the newcomer experience. The needed skills are not only taught but also have added components built so that the newcomer can practice the new skills as they progress through the course.
One of the first skills that need to be mastered is the ability to walk. After you have been introduced to the new skill of walking in Second Life, you then practice that skill by having to walk quite far to get to the next stage. So you practice what you have just learned --- walking. Another example is when an avatar learns about camera control. They immediately practice the skill by using the built-in camera controls to zoom in and out on butterflies in the pond, or for those seeking more challenge, dragonflies, since they are harder to catch. Text, sound and color is experienced when the butterfly or dragonfly is clicked, granting an instant reward.
Warnings are also built into the orientation. People who are using assistive technology will often have many things work differently from those that use regular technology.
Virtual Ability Orientation One in Second Life
Virtual Ability Orientation Two in Second Life
Virtual Ability Orientation Three in Second Life
Machinima: video and audio captured in HD at 1280x720 using Ambrosia's SnapzProX with original audio using SL voice (no editing - though it needed it).
Quicktime: H.264 codec.
Computer: Mac Pro 3,1, Quad-Core Intel Xeon, 3.2 GHz
Graphics/Video card: NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT, VRAM 512 MB
Music purchased from Revostock.com,
Video templates part of Final Cut Pro 6.
Classes on camera controls, machinima workflow, building and scripting have been offered through the Continuing Education program at GSLIS, UIUC in partnership with Alliance Library System.
Bernadette Daly Swanson/HVX Silverstar in SL maintains instructional materials on machinima at: Machinima Institute 218, 114)