h1

Class 5: Virtual Ability Island

February 27, 2015

We had a brief discussion of how to establish community in the virtual realm. There are many approaches, and we listed a few ways to begin: Facebook, blog (as you are doing), Twitter (with appropriate hashtags) and follow others, and LinkedIn. But it takes time and effort, as we are learning in this module.

Then we wanted to make sure we had time to learn about Virtual Ability Island (VIA), so we took a field trip. Students can return to VAI and explore some of the other areas by using the landmarks on the notecard: ‘Landmarks for Virtual Ability,’ and if you did not get one, contact Dudley Dreamscape for one.

Gentle Heron and her friends greeted us. Gentle gave us a brief overview of the history and activities of VAI in both voice and text. They communicate in varied modes so that everyone, even those who are not able to see or hear or read or comprehend English can participate in “real time.”

VAI_001  An overview of VAI from Gentle Heron:

(1) Who is the Virtual Ability community?

We are a cross-disability peer support community of nearly 1000 members from 6 continents. That means our members who have disabilities may have a physical disability, a mental or emotional or developmental disability, or a sensory disability (deafness or blindness). About ¼ of our members do not (yet!) have disabilities. They may be a parent, spouse, child, or friend of a person with a disability; caregiver; researcher; medical professional; or an educator.

Our community has been in Second Life for over 7 years, and we won the first Linden Prize for a project that has “a tangible impact on the real world.”

We are supported by an RL nonprofit, Virtual Ability, Inc. Our community assists people with all kinds of disabilities to enter and thrive in virtual worlds like Second Life. As a community, we offer our members a variety of educational and entertainment activities daily, but also encourage members to explore all the incredible things to do and places to explore within Second Life.

(2) Why are we considered a community?

Some definitions of “community” include a geographic proximity, and obviously since we are on every continent except Antarctica, we don’t embody that aspect. Nor do we have cultural similarity. In fact, we embrace diversity! The population of persons with disabilities is the largest minority, and the most varied.

However other aspects of community we do certainly exhibit:

  • Both close and informal relationships
  • Mutual support among members
  • Common values and beliefs (in our case about emphasis on Ability, not DISability)
  • Organized interactions and activities
  • A strong sense of belonging to the community

On Healthinfo Island, we are focusing not on disabilities and impairments, but rather on health and wellness. You will find landmarks to exhibits, displays, a pavilion listing research opportunities, and the Path of Support. The Path of Support lists information about the more than 120 peer support communities we have identified so far in Second Life for disabling conditions and chronic health issues.

Our community has 2 residential islands, with private properties around the edges, but public land in the central area. On Cape Able, there is an art gallery on the public land; on Cape Serenity, there is a library. In both the art gallery and the library, we offer only works that are created by persons with disabilities. That goes along with our emphasis on the abilities of people with disabilities.

You can learn more about the VAI community at their website: www.virtualability.org

Then we had a lively Q&A session.

The Q&A session covered a lot. Only a few are summarized below. Answers were provided by Gentle Heron and some of the members of the VAI community: Ruby Vandyke, Winter Wardhani, Stepin, ÎsaЪeĻ, Lukey Woodget, James Heartsong, Suellen Heartsong , levi Ewing, oɹɐubǝ dןɐuǝɹ, and Vandala.

QUESTION: How did the community begin?

  • A: We wanted to participate in a community but were too disabled to do so, and we came to a virtual world so we could socialize.

QUESTION: how do you get people from RL into this community in SL? How do you get the word out?

  • A: I found this community by seeing one of their Events listed in the Events search
  • We often invite people in other online types of communities, like chat rooms for people with specific disabilities.
  • I found an article in MS Magazine, mentioning support in SL. I came here, was lost for a bit, but then was guided here by a kind person who knew of VAI.

VAI_002QUESTION: Are people more accepting in SL than RL?

  • A: yes, I find that they are
  • not always people are accepting as in real life that is also the case:)
  • that kind of depends on the disability that is being responded to. Some people are very rude to people with disabilities that make them type slowly or if they type in ASL grammar (which makes them sound nonintelligent).
  • I find that SL is sort of a ‘great equalizer’. Disabilities are not as obvious here, so we feel more confident in our interactions with other.

QUESTION: what benefits have you and the members found from joining this group

  • A: personally for myself I have open up more about my disability with Virtual Ability which actually they have helped me deal with it as well much more in real life
  • We have done several research projects on benefits to people with disabilities of being in a virtual world. It offers several! including improved socialization and self esteem.
  • understanding your not on your own and understanding about the outlook and thinking of other disabled people

QUESTION: Does the improved self-esteem translate to RL?

  • A: yes, being at SL has made me more confident in RL, such as doing public speaking, being able to strike up a conversation with people

One last benefit to SL. I get to meet folks from around the world, without ever leaving my desk. 🙂

  • world wide friends
  • I got to meet so many people from so many place that I wouldn’t have otherwise
  • me too, being retired helps..but would never be able to physically travel to other countries

We thank the VAI folks for participating and to Suellen for voicing.

NEXT WEEK:

Groups will work together and the instructors will visit each group to get an up date on your progress and provide some help.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: