At the time I began my research, I came across an interesting discussion on Second Life being inaccessible to the visually impaired. I was surprised to see that some people still believe a 3D virtual world ‘is not meant to be accessible’ to those with visual impairments. Still many seem to support the calls for making SL accessible. It’s an engaging discussion that can be found by following this link.
Joshua Linden, one of the developers for Linden Labs made a post on January 8th 2007, encouraging developers to take initiative in developing an accessible SL client:
“8th January 2007: ‘Joshua Linden’ said:
Hey there – I’m Joshua Linden from Linden Lab, one of the folks who help create the Second Life platform. (The world, of course, is created by the residents.) We are deeply committed to making Second Life usable by everyone. A large number of Second Life residents have “First Life” disabilities and enjoy the freedoms that a virtual world offers – from communication to movement. However, we’re still a very small company and have limited development resources, so we have not been able to do everything we want to – yet! That includes standard interfaces for accessibility tools.
We have recently done a substantial rework of our keyboard focus code to make things more predictable. As a benefit that was clearly in mind at the time, this will make it easier to eventually hook up focus-based screen readers (which typically work by interrogating the active application for changes in the displayed text) and support alternative input technologies. This is a much longer term project than simply saying “we support the W3C WAI” since accessibility hooks are built into many Web browsers already, whereas the Second Life viewer is a stand-alone application. (Long term, one could hope that content-creators in-world can tag their creations in such a way as to be more accessible once the viewer is fully accessible!)
Speaking of opening up, today (8 Jan 2007) we announced that the Second Life viewer source code is available under an open source license. See http://blog.secondlife.com/2007/01/08/embracing-the-inevitable/ for the announcement and links. We strongly encourage other developers to take on projects such as interfacing the Second Life viewer to work with alternative input and output mechanisms such as screen readers. Don’t just wait for us to do it!”