I love Second Life for a number of reasons, but one of my favorites is that it gives disabled people a place to interact where they are not limited by many of their disabilities. Early last year I wrote that one of my Second Life neighbors was in a wheelchair in Real Life and that I had SL friends who had MS, were deaf, were shut-ins, and had all manner of disabilities. In SL they could fly, dance, chat with people, meet lots of new people, and "go places" that would never happen in RL. It still brings a tear to my eye how wonderfully liberating Second Life can be.
Via Lillie Yifu, again, is a wonderful post all about The Heron Sanctuary, a community for the support and aid of disabled people in Second Life.
The post puts it well:
...people with disabilities want the same things everyone else does: we want companionship and friendship especially with people who understand the limitations placed on us by our disabling conditions; we need to learn more about our own conditions, about health and wellbeing, and about resources available to us to make our lives better; we want a chance to be employed or to do volunteer work since both give back to our community; and we want to have fun.
This was really no surprise, nor was it a surprise that these things were difficult to achieve in the world outside our homes.
Those of us who are disabled are often socially isolated, even physically isolated, within our geographic communities.
So three of us from LoveByrd decided to explore virtual reality as a setting within which to build a supportive community. We began to collect medical research about the benefits of operating in virtual reality that accrue to people with different kinds of disabilities.
We visited the websites of a half dozen different virtual worlds, and chose Second Life as the one to colonize, since it seemed at the time to be the richest cultural environment and the most fully developed.
The coming of voice to Second Life disturbed me because I didn't want my deaf friends to be stigmatized or relegated to 'voiceless ghettos' because they couldn't use the voice client. I'm glad Second Life exists so that my friends can lead fuller, richer lives.
It makes me look at myself and go, "What meaningful thing have you done today?" Thankfully, most of my days I can answer, "I may not have been an advocate, but I had fun with a lot of people and hopefully made their lives better by just allowing it to be 'normal'."