[games_access] Fwd: interesting discussion about making SecondLife accessible to the blind

Reid Kimball reid at rbkdesign.com
Fri Jan 12 00:33:17 EST 2007

Hi all,

I'm just chiming in on the overall debate of whether or not a law suit
is appropriate. In the case of a game or even a simulation world run
by a company I think of it as a private country or golf club. They
have certain rules for membership (download this, pay us a monthly
fee, whatever). Some will be more exclusive by requiring its members
to use certain controllers, like the guitar for Guitar Hero. You buy
that game and use that controller, you automatically become a member
of a unique club.

Now, should companies that provide interactive experiences for fun or
even profit, as in the case of Second Life be required by law to make
them accessible to all? Technically, I don't think those groups should
be required by law. However, I think it's foolish of them and
incredibly disheartening if they decide to not to be as inclusive as
possible. It doesn't make sense financially to shut out many millions
of potential customers but I also think that the choice should be up
to them to decide, not a law. If a company makes an MMO that requires
someone to play without any disabilities, that's their choice, no
matter how terrible that may be.

When it comes to education, a lot of people don't have the luxury to
choose which "club" they join, unless they have the finances for a
private school. Usually, they must go to school at the one place that
is available to them in their town. In that case, when games are being
used in a class room, I believe there should be laws and requirements
that interactive educational experiences be accessible to all students
using it.


On 1/11/07, d. michelle hinn <hinn at uiuc.edu> wrote:

> That's great, Thomas. I wish that someone from Linden had also

> contacted us to get involved so I'll take your email as an invitation

> even though you are not with Linden.


> Part of the reason for this list is that it is a forum for free

> discussion about issues pertaining to accessibility and to note when

> discrepancies exist -- such as whether SL is a "game" (and therefore

> immediately involves us) or a larger project that, in large part,

> falls outside the scope of our SIG. With regard to active members, we

> are small and we have to choose our battles. Please do not take

> offense at this -- I mean no offense at all. But with so much

> territory to cover in the gaming world, it is difficult to justify

> having the entire SIG be completely involved in a SL project that is

> not purely a game world when we are already spread so thin with so

> many commitments that broadly span the industry. SL is closer to our

> mission than the web accessibility issues -- there are so many much

> more experienced groups already doing this. But only the gaming

> portion of it is related to our mission -- so that which in SL is not

> a game goes beyond our SIG scope.


> Simulated worlds are not automatically games and SL, a simulated

> world, has said that they are not a game but, rather, provide

> facilitation for people who choose to create games. But they also

> provide facilitation for people who choose to create businesses and

> anything else people can imagine in that world.


> The issue at hand is that there is a lawsuit on the table now and

> it's not from us. So those of us discussing it were discussing the

> lawsuit based on our experiences with SL personally and

> professionally. I see no reason why discussion here should ever be

> censured -- with the exception of someone just coming in to heckle

> us. The more disturbing thing in my mind is not Linden Lab's response

> but the responses that the reporter of the original article received.

> One comment involved, essentially, saying that the blind need to find

> a real life and stop worrying about "second life." I take offense

> when I see man's inhumanity to man. It's not the first (or, I'm

> afraid, the last) time we've seen this -- Reid Kimball has many, many

> examples of fantastic (as in "hard to believe" not as in "great")

> responses to the hearing impaired community's activism for closed

> captioning in games. It disturbs me but many things in this world do.


> I was recently on NPR as part of a piece on Games for the Blind and

> have seen reaction to that, such as "disability is just a construct

> and games are not inaccessible." If we were to take this

> academically, sure, ok, disability *could* be a construct if we used

> disturbing terms like "normal" (whatever the h*ll that means). But to

> suggest that games are accessible to all? No way. Nor is second life.

> Yes, there are people who can play some games using more

> extraordinary measures than a gamer without a disability that

> prevents them from playing a game "out of the box." There are others

> who don't need particularly fancy set ups to play some games. There

> are others who cannot play at all -- either because the prices of

> assistive technologies to play such games is prohibitive or they've

> assumed (as the designer has) that games are not for them.


> So this points, again, to our larger purpose of increasing awareness

> for many, many issues. By all means, I encourage anyone who wishes to

> form/join in a committee to help create an accessible SL client to

> have full backing from the SIG as best as we can do. But SL is not

> the only issue out there -- it's just the first that a lawsuit has

> been pressed against and, as Richard pointed out, it's not "a game."

> So while as a SIG on a whole we cannot drop the myriad of high

> profile activism that we are doing as advocates within the industry

> to bring about awareness about disability issues, I see no reason why

> you, Thomas, cannot use this forum as a way to recruit interested

> members in the committee you suggest.


> So after my long winded reply...yes, a committee would be great and I

> support that. I encourage you spearhead this committee and use this

> list as a way to organize and announce meetings. I will help

> facilitate that as much as possible. At the same time, many of us

> will not be able to participate due to other time commitments and

> personal and professional research interests -- but some will be able

> to so and it's worth asking people to join in your effort.


> Michelle

> IGDA Game Accessibility SIG Chair


> >Fact one: SL has a disability group that come together to discuss the issues.

> >

> >Fact two: The lab have contracted someone to be there disability

> >coordinator and I am trying to work with him.

> >

> >Fact Three: The University of Texas at Dallas have purchase an

> >island for me to work on the Accessibility issues of this type of

> >environment. I am still waiting on the island to be deliver by the

> >lab.

> >

> >This group needs to come together and help me to make sl better for

> >all of us and stop pointing out what could happen.

> >

> >I know many people with disabilities in sl and some do have trouble

> >and some do just fine, but now since the lab have made sl open

> >source application then we can make a accessible client for all.

> >

> >I suggest that we form a committee to look at this problem in detail?

> >

> >

> >----------------------------------------------------------------

> >Thank You,

> >Tom Roome

> >ATEC Teacher Assistant

> >The University of Texas at Dallas

> >E-mail: thomas.roome at student.utdallas.edu

> >

> >

> >

> >________________________________

> >

> >From: games_access-bounces at igda.org on behalf of d. michelle hinn

> >Sent: Thu 1/11/2007 5:39 PM

> >To: IGDA Games Accessibility SIG Mailing List

> >Subject: Re: [games_access] Fwd: interesting discussion about making

> >SecondLife accessible to the blind

> >

> >

> >

> >Yes, this is true -- and actually since it's a "place of business"

> >for some that even Reuters international news service is following it

> >puts them into even more danger according to several US laws. SL is

> >not a game but an online world that allows users to create games...or

> >businesses...or classes...

> >

> >And since users *can* (and I'm not saying will) make real money off

> >of their ventures...it places it into interesting legal territory.

> >Although...with SL really pushing their product at gaming

> >conferences, it makes them into a (sorry for the geekiness of

> >this...) a shape-shifter of sorts, allowing them to align themselves

> >as whatever form (business and concept-wise) is valuable to them at

> >whatever point in time.

> >

> >The game versus simulation should tie up the courts a bit -- and SL

> >needs to clarify whatever position they intend to defend themselves

> >with. Whatever angle they go with...that will be on the legal books

> >for some time in the US (unless/until overturned).

> >

> >Michelle

> >

> >>Thanks for this! I've already posted my 2eurocents. Maybe we do need to keep

> >>in mind that many consider Second Life to be "a simulation instead of a

> >>game" (to quote Margaret Robertson of Edge Magazine). While this may seem

> >>like a futile detail at the moment (games vs. simulation discussion), it can

> >>make all the difference in the world - legally.

> >>

> >>Greets,

> >>

> >>Richard

> >>

> >>

> >>----- Original Message -----

> >>From: "d. michelle hinn" <hinn at uiuc.edu>

> >>To: <games_access at igda.org>

> >>Sent: Thursday, January 11, 2007 1:09 AM

> >>Subject: [games_access] Fwd: interesting discussion about making SecondLife

> >>accessible to the blind

> >>

> >>

> >>> Forwarding this for Eelke...interesting timing, as I'm about to guest

> >>> blog about accessibility of MMOGs on Terra Nova.

> >>>

> >>> Hey the American Blind Federation sued AOL...this was bound to happen

> >>> to online games eventually, especially since they are being used in

> >>> classrooms.

> >>>

> >>> Michelle

> >>>

> >>>>ate: Wed, 10 Jan 2007 14:28:11 -0800

> >>>>From: "Eelke Folmer" <eelke.folmer at gmail.com>

> >>>>To: "d. michelle hinn" <hinn at uiuc.edu>,

> >>>> "Richard Tol van" <r.van.tol at bartimeus.nl>

> >>>>Subject: Fwd: interesting discussion about making SecondLife

> >>>>accessible to the blind

> >>>>

> >>>>Hey I sent this one yesterday to the games access list but it wasn't

> >>>>featured in today's

> >>>>mail.

> >>>>

> >>>>cheers Eelke

> > >>>

> >>>>

> >>>>---------- Forwarded message ----------

> >>>>From: Eelke Folmer <eelke.folmer at gmail.com>

> >>>>Date: Jan 9, 2007 3:46 PM

> >>>>Subject: interesting discussion about making SecondLife accessible

> >>>>to the blind

> >>>>To: games_access at igda.org

> >>>>

> >>>>

> >>>>http://www.it-analysis.com/blogs/Abrahams_Accessibility/2006/11/second_life_class_action.html?mode=full&hilite=13287#CM13287

> >>>>

> >>>>People seem to have some radical opinions about the subject matter

> >>>>(especially with regard to the class action suit):

> >>>>

> >>>>"Don't get me wrong; I'm all for supporting the rights of the

> >>>>disabled, but this is beyond insane. What's next? Should they sue the

> >>>>Anderson Window Company for not making windows that verbally describe

> >>>>what's going on outside. I mean, really, those windows only work for

> >>>>people who can see, right? That's discrimination, right"

> >>>>

> >>>>Interesting is the response from Joshua Linden (founder linden labs)

> >>>>about how Lindenlabs is trying to do their best to follow the W3C

> >>>>guidelines but rather decided to make the Second life viewer open

> >>>>source so people can write their own viewers which support alternative

> >>>>input and output mechanisms such as screen readers. However I believe

> >>>>this will only work if accessibility features are supported on the

> >>>>server side. E.g. how do you classify & describe an object in

> >>>>Secondlife? (e.g. its the same problem with adding meta information to

> >>>>images on the word wide web see http://www.espgame.org/)

> >>>>

> >>>>~ Eelke

> >>>>

> >>>>

> >>>>

> >>>>--

> >>>>----------------------------------------------------------------------------

> >>>>Eelke Folmer Assistant Professor

> >> >>Department of Computer Science & Engineering/171

> >>>>University of Nevada Reno, Nevada 89557

> >>>>Game Quality usability|accessibility.eelke.com

> >>>>----------------------------------------------------------------------------

> >>>>

> >>>>

> >>>>--

> >>>>----------------------------------------------------------------------------

> >>>>Eelke Folmer Assistant Professor

> >>>>Department of Computer Science & Engineering/171

> >>>>University of Nevada Reno, Nevada 89557

> >>>>Game Quality usability|accessibility.eelke.com

> >>>>----------------------------------------------------------------------------

> >>> _______________________________________________

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> >>> games_access at igda.org

> >>> http://seven.pairlist.net/mailman/listinfo/games_access

> >>

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