Real Life Access to Second Life Worlds: The Potential, the Problems and the Possibilities for a Barrier-Free Future
While user participation has always been a function of the Web, more recent Web 2.0 developments such as "MySpace", "YouTube", "Facebook" and 3D virtual worlds such as "Second Life", "Active Worlds" and "There", provide the narrative space through which users collaborate, create and share their experiences using a variety of rich media tools. Such new and emerging technologies challenge the out dated debates about whether form ought to precede function as the traditional roles of designers and users are transformed; in the virtual worlds of Web 2.0, it is the users who are the creators. Web 2.0 technologies, therefore, have the potential to link users isolated by disability, geographical location and social circumstances, and can enable individuals to transcend the limitations of real life in virtual space. Despite the promises, those who can benefit the most from these collaborative rich media experiences may be further disadvantaged by the social, physical, sensory and technological barriers to accessibility imposed by such platforms. This paper describes the potential of Web 2.0 as a narrative space for those who are isolated in real life, outlines the current accessibility problems imposed by Web 2.0 technologies and explores possible approaches for addressing the identified barriers to accessibility.
Keywords: Web 2.0, 3D Virtual Worlds, Disability, Accessibility
Dr. D. Wood
Program Director (Media Arts), School of Communication, University of South Australia