For a two and a half years myself and some friends have been fundraising for a 3 year old friend called Sam who was severely disabled after a car crash. So far, with the £21,o000 raised, we’ve been able to buy him a specially adapted wheelchair so he can get out and about, an FES exercise bike to help him develop his muscles and immunity, and arm extensions so he can take part in the art classes he loves at playgroup.
My journey into Second Life has been inspired by Sam. While I was initially looking to fundraise and raise awareness , I then started to explore it’s technical accessibility and how it works with access technologies. During my travels I’ve met and gathered stories from residents in Second Life, people otherwise restricted in real life, who have found a whole new channel for expressing themselves. What has impressed me is the level of independence people have felt that goes beyond what an adapted wheelchair or arm extensions can do; if you’re able to access virtual worlds you can independently meet and make friends, go to concerts, nightclubs, classes and generally hang out. What has been most revealing of all however is how those of us who are able bodied can find it more comfortable to meet, communicate and talk frankly to people who are disabled through the protective layer of virtual reality. A level playing field in more ways than one.
I’ve started a Stuff4Sam group in Second Life to help raise awareness and hopefully raise funds for Sam. We’re also looking at how we can make Second Life more accessible to people with disabilities. It’s an open group and I would love for you to come and join us, spread the world and look into technical solutions for making Second Life accessible. Just search for “stuff4sam” in the Groups section of the Search and we’ll pop up – the more the better!