Day 2 of the International Disability Rights Conference opened with a talk about L’Arche. The speaker was Melanie Saxon, Community Leader / Executive Director of L’Arche Jacksonville (FL). She shared some of L’Arche’s history and mission through the use of short videos and her own words. I must admit I had never heard of them before and I am kind of ashamed of myself for that since they appear to do wonderful things.
Virtual Ability member Mook Wheeler has created a number of displays and exhibits on Healthinfo Island about l’Arche, Jean Vanier, and the concept of community for persons with disabilities. If you are in Second Life, please visit them.
The second talk was Dr. Margaret Nosek, Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, TX, US) and two co-presenters, Stephanie Silveira and Rachel Markley. She got some group chat going about how our avatars interact and how they affect us. Having an avatar to go to a conference or get out and about to a support group makes life much easier for people with disabilities because they don’t have to leave home. It is especially important for people in rural areas or those who are isolated. We discussed a lot about safety on line and finding a community in Second Life. Members really wanted to have support and SL allowed people to find it while not leaving home. People also often want to represent themselves accurately and in SL you have to work at finding wheelchairs and canes. Also in SL architecture means you don’t need to have ramps and such for accessibility but many people feel it is an important political and educational statement to have them built in. Overall a fascinating and amusing talk. I have actually published on this topic.
Our second speaker has been “in world” since 1994 and the in world experience in the early days consisted of IM style chat rooms of the era. He also talked about Mike from NYC who would not share anything personal but provided widespread and great support in a Parkinson’s group. Seven years later Mike from New York turned out to be Michael J Fox! Our speaker then told a third story was about a platform where people could use emoticons. And the ones that loved it the most were people with mobius syndrome, people who were unable to show facial expressions. In his fourth story he talked about how people with autism and aspergers practiced in SL (Brigadoon Island) to work on RL situations. Scary in Real Life became manageable in Second Life eventually making Real Life more manageable.
The final speaker of the day was Shayla the Super Geeko who spoke about Persons With Disabilities and what happened to them on September 11. Over 200 PWDs died that day. Most did not survive because they could not evacuate. She then extended the concept to PWDs during disasters in general. We had a lot of talk about how PWDs have to make their own plans to be sure they get out in a disaster because depending on others will not work.
And so it was overall a fun, interesting and eye opening two day conference. I am very happy I was able to play a small part in the organization of the conference by finding introducers. Well done everyone involved!