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Info about available Resident-created tools to make Second Life easier for the disabled



Accessibility means the degree to which an object, function, service, or environment is available for use by as many people as possible. Although often thought of as mainly an issue for people with disabilities, or even more specifically as an issue for those who use assistive technology, accessibility is an issue that affects us all. This broad definition includes wheelchair accessibility (e.g., ramps or lifts instead of stairs, designated parking, and curb cuts), sensory accessibility (assistive listening devices for theaters, audio signals at street corners, Braille signs, TTY in public phones, and alt tags on websites), and many other kinds of accessibility. The numeronym for accessibility is a11y.

Handicap.png This is an internationally recognized symbol for accessibility. However, some people with disabilities do not recognize it as representing their needs. Others feel it is a symbol of the segregation of those with special access needs.

In many countries, accessibility is legislated, and thus may be more clearly defined. In the US, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) defines access to public and private businesses. Section 508 (an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) defines information technology accessibility for all Federal agencies. The United States Access Board is the US federal agency responsible for setting technical standards for Section 508.

The UK’s Disability Discrimination Act and the Australian Disability Discrimination Act serve similar purposes to the ADA. The Canadian Human Rights Act, Article 25, defines “disability” and protects the rights of Canadians with disabilities.

Signatories of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ascribe to full legal equity for persons with disabilities. In order to promote independent living and full participation, signatory countries should ensure accessibility to all public facilities and services, including information and communications technology (ICT).

International guidelines for website accessibility include the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a project of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The W3C recognizes that people use a wide range of Web browsers, media players, assistive technology, and other “user agents” to find and interact with Web content. The WCAG guidelines help Web developers create content that is broadly accessible.

Universal Design (UD) is an approach to creating structures, products, and environments that are accessible to all people. The seven UD principles promoted by the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina Sate University show how this concept extends beyond accessibility:

  1. Equitable use
  2. Flexibility in use
  3. Simple and intuitive
  4. Perceptible information
  5. Tolerance for error
  6. Low physical effort
  7. Size and space for approach and use

Disability means a lack of one or more human abilities, which include physical, mental, emotional, sensory, and developmental abilities. The effects of chronic illnesses are often included as disabilities.

Disability can be further defined from several perspectives, often known as models. In the medical model of disability, the focus is on the cause (disease, health condition, or trauma) of the disability. The goal under this model is “fixing” or “curing” the disability, and health and capability are seen as human rights. In the social model of disability, disability is thought to be created by external societal factors that interact with the individual’s condition. The goal of the social model is full integration of all people into society, and equal access is seen as a human right.

The term “disability” is often contrasted with the term “impairment,” which indicates a characteristic of an individual. The World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) defines impairments of body structures and functions that limit people in domains such as the activities of daily living, learning, communicating, interpersonal relationships, and social and civic life.

Assistive technology (AT) includes all devices (whether assistive, adaptive, or rehabilitative) that help people accomplish tasks they can not do adequately or at all without the device. AT can enhance a person’s capabilities, or it can change the method of interaction to one that is compatible with capabilities. A wide variety of AT is used by people in Second Life. Many specific examples are given in the Solutions and Sources section of this wiki.

“People first language” is one way of emphasizing the similarities among all people before recognizing differences. This simple grammatical rule, putting the person first in naming, creates this emphasis. Using “person with a disability” rather than “disabled person” indicates that the disability modifies a person rather than subordinating humanity to the disability. Similarly, a person’s assistive technology should be seen as a tool (“a person who uses a wheelchair”) rather than as a limitation (“a person confined to a wheelchair”). Note that not all disabled people feel that “people first language” is important, nor does the concept apply in all languages.


Americans with Disability Act

Section 508

United States Access Board

UK Disability Discrimination Act

Australian Disability Discrimination Act

Canadian Human Rights Act, Article 25

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Center for Universal Design at North Carolina Sate University

World Health Organization International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health

Accessibility Issues with Second Life

Solutions and Sources

Keyboard/Mouse Impairment Accessibility Issues

Including inworld work-arounds, voice recognition software (built-in and purchased), alternative keyboards and other input options

Hearing Impairment Accessibility Issues

Including V2T transcription, delayed transcription, captioning

Print Impairment Accessibility Issues

Including adjusting UI size, Voice Chat, T2V transcription, text reader devices

Other Accessibility Issues

Including safety for adult-children

Discussions of Accessibility Issues

Transcripts and calendar of events

Public Issue Tracker (JIRAs) Related to Accessibility Issues

Including directions how to use it

User-developed Projects To Develop Accessibility Tools

Including the Max technologies, Restricted Viewer, Access Viewer, and Radegast

Academic Research Projects Related to Accessibility

==Related Resources==