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Archive for April, 2010

We presented at the Immersive Education Initiative Summit in Boston on the 24th April 2010. Here are the details of our presentation.

Open Source solutions for improving the accessibility of 3D virtual world environments

TRACK: HIGHER EDUCATION (PRIMARY TRACK), RESEARCH (SECONDARY TRACK)
TIME : 09:45-10:30 AM April 24 (45 MINUTES) IN FULTON 230

KEYWORDS: accessibility, disability, virtual guidedog, 3D virtual learning environment, open source, Open Simulator, OpenSim, OpenSim, Access Globe, virtual worlds, AJAX, ARIA, Web3D, mobile 3D

SPEAKERS:
Denise Wood
Faculty, University of South Australia

Charles Morris
Vice Chairman,Virtual Helping Hands

Janyth Ussery
Executive Director,Virtual Helping Hands

SESSION SUMMARY:
This session and paper describes a project funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, which aims to address such accessibility challenges through the design and development of an open source 3D virtual learning platform, an associated Web 2.0 interface, accessible teaching tools and guidelines for the design and development of accessible 3D virtual worlds. The session begins with a report of the findings of our research into the accessibility issues and challenges faced by people with disabilities in navigating 3D virtual worlds. These challenges include lack of alternative text for graphical content, poor support for screen readers used by people who are blind, limitations relating to keyboard access, the need for streaming captions for audio visual material and the need for logical ordering of links to interface elements.

The next section of the session describes existing solutions and supports available within virtual worlds such as Second Life. Building on the work of such groups as Virtual Helping Hands, which developed the virtual guidedog currently in use in Second Life, we describe how technologies such as MaxVoice are being integrated into the open source SnowGlobe client application to improve accessibility within Second Life and OpenSimulator (OpenSim) virtual world environments. We also describe a Web 2.0 environment under development which utilizes AJAX and ARIA technologies to provide a light weight interface to virtual worlds via Web browsers and mobile devices. The preliminary findings from our initial trials are reported and the challenges encountered in our early development work are discussed. Based on the findings of these early trials and the solutions we have developed to address these identified challenges, we explore the potential for extending the open source solution to other 3D virtual world platforms. Finally, we highlight the benefits of applying universal design principles to the development of open source 3D virtual world environments.

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