Australian Second Life resident, Seshat Czeret, provides a guest post, which appeared on The Metaverse Journal in the past week. Thanks Seshat!
There is always a lot of talk about ‘accessibility’, so-called ‘making things usable for the disabled’. You also hear a lot about phrases like ‘discrimination’, ‘equal opportunity’ and ‘political correctness’. It can be difficult to work out what is actually needed to help a disabled person live a fulfilling and useful life, and what is excessive ‘correctness’. Hearing what life is like for a disabled person can help.
I’m disabled. I use Second Life extensively. This is my story.
In the atomic world, the fleshworld, I’m almost totally housebound. I can only do chores – or SL work – for a short time before I have to rest. I only have a few hours a day in which I’m functional, and even for those I’m not fully functional. I haven’t been since I was a teenager. Some days – even some weeks or months – I have even less, or am not functional at all.
When I do go out, I have to use a mobility scooter or a wheelchair. I can walk, but walking the length of a mall would tire me out to the point where I’d need several hours of sleep to recover. For various reasons – which would probably be boring – even with the assistance of the scooter or the wheelchair, going out is very stressful and leaves me tired. I have to plan outings carefully.
So I can’t do atomic world work. By the time I got to work, I’d be too weak to achieve anything. I’ve tried, over and over again, many times in the last two decades. I’ve done it, but only at the cost of aggravating my problems.
Fortunately for me, I live in the 21st Century. I can do work from home! I’ve done voluntary work for the Open Source community. I’ve done other sorts of online voluntary work. I’ve written articles, and twice written a book. Unfortunately, the pace of work expected of an author of books exceeds what I can do – the first time I wrote a book, I was more than a year recovering.
But in Second Life, I can be useful.
In Second Life, I teach. I only have to be focussed for an hour and a half or so at a time, which is a stretch of time I can manage. And I don’t have to leave my house, exhausting myself, to do so. I can teach in text, with student questions also in text, so my hearing problems don’t matter. Much of the typing is done in advance, so I don’t overstrain my arms and hands, and only have to type the personalisation of the class for the individual students I’m teaching that day.
In Second Life, I am an NCI helper. I sit and listen in on the NCI chat/questions group channel. When there’s a problem I can help with, I can choose to respond – or not! If I’m having a high pain day, I let others catch that question. If I’ve responded to too many questions and need a break, I let others catch that question. If I can answer, however, I will.
In Second Life, I run a business. I don’t have to be there all the time, I can set things up and then go collapse into my bed. I can create things that other people like, in the times when I am functional, and rest when I’m not. I can do the business management stuff when I’m capable of it, not to someone else’s timeframe.
Best of all, in Second Life, my body works. I can run, and dance, and fly, and ‘talk’, and ‘hear’. I can attend art shows, or watch people creating art in sandboxes.
In Second Life, I am a person and not a disability.