I discovered a sim in Second Life this weekend that I found very impressive. It's called "Virtual Ability" Island, and it is an ongoing project to assist people who are facing just about any sort of disability, including physical limitations, visual challenges and mental mental disorders.
The project was begun in 2008, and the above video was created in 2009, shortly thereafter. There have been a lot of changes and improvements since then, so the place is even better, now.
For those unfamiliar with online gaming and virtual reality, the orientation to this island is the best orientation I have ever seen. I would encourage anyone, actually, who is wanting to know more about virtual worlds to start here (be sure to make a donation if you are able). The sim is open to anyone who is experiencing a disability of any sort, or for anyone wanting to learn how to help someone who is facing a disability. Those wanting to better accomodate employees or participants facing disabilities in their workplaces and "real life" (as opposed to virtual life) situations can visit the programs "Health Info Island," which is linked from the main island in-world.
According to the organization's "About" page:
During our unique intake process, we conduct an individualized skills assessment, refer clients for help with assistive hardware and software as appropriate, and provide customized training and orientation.
Once they are "there," Virtual Ability, Inc. helps members of our community integrate into the virtual society, and provides an ongoing community of support. The community offers members information, encouragement, training, companionship, referrals to other online resources and groups, ways to contribute back to the community, and ways to have fun.
We take virtual field trips as part of our curriculum with our new intakes. We also have volunteers who love to go shopping, and enjoy helping folks with virtual makeovers. While almost anyone new to a virtual online world would enjoy a little early guidance, we are finding that this individualized attention is often critical for the success of those who have disabilities.
We also do a lot of dancing. We have taken folks to walk in the virtual woods, climb mountains, go virtual skydiving - all kinds of things that are profound and a pleasure to someone with physical or mental limitations. It's an amazing experience helping someone who will never walk again in real life to jump on a virtual trampoline.
Tomorrow, we'll talk about resources for those facing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).