Orientation islands have always been designed to help newcomers to learn about Second Life. Virtual Ability takes this one step further by helping the disabled through real life as well by showing them they can do the things they never been able to do before.
As soon as you land on this island, you’ll notice big signs with very visible text explaining everything you can do and what the group VAI (Virtual Ability Island) stands for.
Here’s the text on one of those signs, one that moved me more than most of the others:
“Welcome to Virtual Ability Island Virtual Ability Island has been developed through a partnership between The Alliance Library System and Virtual Ability, Inc. The goal of the partnership is to develop an island with an orientation and training center for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
The entire island is acessibility-friendly for new and experienced residents and will provide ongoing training for people who want to search for and evaluate health information. Funding for this island came from an initial grant from the National Library of Medicine, and is being sustained through the generosity of individual contributors.”
It may seem like a very formal letter to the visitors, but I think this shows how great a tool Second Life can be to help people who need it the most, and how many people there is out there that really care about others.
It became apparent as soon as I took one step off the landing pad that they’re not only working online.
Right off the pad, I see a gallery of historical images from the Disability Rights Movement, showing people shouting without voice, but still heard throughout history, running without legs, but still making their way to their goals and people listening without being able to hear a sound. This is truly a warm place to be.
There are a ton of tutorials here, ranging from basic to advanced. If that’s still not enough, you can contact one of the mentors at all times, with only the ring of a bell. There’s always someone there to answer all your questions about both Second Life and how Virtual Ability can help the disabled or chronically ill.
They also have a lot of free gifts, ranging from plants to guitars, to a submarine to even complete houses. Those can be found at the end of the basic tutorial walkway. There you can also find a money tree with a little twist. Most money trees only give out lindens if there’s still some there, this tree always gives you 10L$, but only once and only if you’re under 30 days old. The only thing they ask of you is that you pass the favour forward one day when you have money yourself.
I was going to end my tour here, but then I saw something in the distance, on another island connected by a bridge to the landing pad, there’s an auditorium (dedicated to Karen Gans, one of the main contributors to the Dreams community for self-help and education for stroke survivors), who sadly passed away in may 2008.
In this auditorium and around other parts of this island, there are courses and events ranging from weekly peptalk-broadcasts to self-help for those who feel like life has gotten the better of them, to group therapy sessions and beyond.
Here you’ll also find a bridge connecting Virtual Ability Island to the adjacent sim, Healthinfo Island.
It’s still under construction, but at a glance I can tell that this too will be a great help for those who need it.
Even if you’re not disabled or chronically ill, I’d recommend this place, just for the experience and warmth this place radiates, and for the extensive tutorials, wich is better written than Linden Labs own. Who knows, maybe you’ll even stick around to help others one day, when you have enough experience?