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Disability in Second Life

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Crippled Monkey | 10:00 UK time, Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Are you a visitor to Second Life, the much-talked about 3D virtual reality world where people have been known to spend hours, even days? Crippled Monkey will admit to taking a look at it once, but frankly it scared the pants off me and I never went back. Oh well.

An increasing number of disabled people are becoming hooked on Second Life, it seems. For those with mobility issues, especially, it offers them a chance to roam freely around a world where they are not disabled - another extension of the freedom, though sometimes also the concern, that the net allows you to be whoever you want to be. It's a subject that Paul Crichton recently covered in a post on Ouch's very own Access 2.0 blog.

However, there are also a number of Second Life'rs who do declare their disability in this virtual environment, Simon Stevens amongst them. Back at the end of August last year, the Ouch blog reported on the launch of Wheelies, the world's first virtual disability nightclub, which could be found within Second Life. All was going well with the club until suddenly, one night in December, Wheelies was mysteriously destroyed. Returning to his little empire the next day, Simon found that bits of it had been 'removed', rendering the club useless.

So what happened? Why was Wheelies destroyed in such a way? Simon himself isn't at all certain, though what he does know is that the incident happened almost immediately after he had left this virtual world's own version of Big Brother. Rather than being voted out, he had gone 'over the wall' and left the house of his own choice. So could there be some deeper intrigue here, or is just coincidence? Could someone have objected to Simon - a wheelchair user with CP - being such a visible presence in the high profile BB competition within this Second Life? Crippled Monkey scents a case for his detective skills, and may have to step back into the immersive 3D landscape to find out more. Wish me luck.

In the meantime, though, we're pleased to tell you that Wheelies has risen from its digital ashes and is heading for a grand reopening on Friday 18 May. Situated on its very own island called Second Ability, it's now bigger and better than before, and features a picture gallery, chill out area, rooftop garden and pool. Wow. With all that on offer, I need never leave the house again ...


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