A new vision for virtual worlds
Seeing virtual worlds in a new light
Virtual worlds pose difficult accessibility challenges for users who have disabilities. Blind computer users are particularly affected because of the highly visual nature of Second Life® and other virtual worlds.
It seems like an impossible challenge - helping blind people navigate the 3-D, image-laden spaces of the virtual world. But, researchers at IBM looked at the problem in a different light and devised a creative solution.
The IBM® AbilityLab™ Virtual Worlds Accessible User Interface provides a variety of communication, navigation, and perception functions using 2D screen reader-accessible GUI elements embedded in a browser-based application.
Divide and conquer
The team at the IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center divided the project into two parts:
First, the team created the user interface to supply the equivalent, accessible actions performed by avatars in Second Life. Now, for example, instead of teleporting, walking or moving by clicking a mouse, a blind user can select these activities from a menu using his or her keyboard.
Second, the researchers developed and populated a database with screen reader-accessible information describing the Second Life environment. Best of all, the team has tapped into the power of social media. Sighted users can contribute annotations — both text- and voice-based — of virtual objects and places by adding a scripted gadget to their avatar’s repertoire of capabilities. These annotations are deposited in the database and made available to all users of the Virtual Worlds Accessible User Interface.
A whole new world
The goal of the Virtual Worlds Accessible User Interface project is to create an alternative user interface paradigm that works for blind users. In other words, the blind citizen can really be part of this whole new world.
|Notes: Install NVDA 0.6p3 at a minimum, even better results are usually experienced with the daily snapshots.|
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