Understanding, Passion, Community- An Amazing World
Everyone is looking for something in their life. Sometimes it’s intellectual, sometimes it’s interpersonal. Sometimes it’s a need for answers or ideas. Sometimes it’s community.
My name in Second Life is Zip Zlatkis… and I came to this virtual world in 2008 with tears in my eyes. My adult daughter and I had watched a YouTube video together in which a person with physical disabilities discovered the freedom of a virtual world. That video moved me, and my daughter, who has Cerebral Palsy, and I decided to take a look at Second Life. What we found surpassed our expectations. We found something we could totally participate in and have some fun, in spite of mobility limitations. We found so much more.
As we got familiar with Second Life and got to know Virtual Ability, I discovered that Second Life was an excellent place for my research as a graduate student. I did a research project on the value of a virtual world for people with mobility impairments. I focused my master’s degree project on virtual worlds and mobility impairment. I received a lot of support and help from Gentle and other members of the VAI community who introduced me to the real life of SL and VAI. I lived in the VAI community for almost a year before starting the formal research of my project. I was told by VA that is was not normal for research students to spend so much time learning about SL/VA and the people and then to stay around afterwards.
But VAI and SL offered me so many opportunities. I met people filled with passion. shared vision, and commitment to create a space, a place, where people with disabilities are not just supported, but are fundamental to community. I helped establish a community in Second Life. I met people and strengthened meaningful relationships. As I explored SL with my daughter, my partner and on my own, I became aware of the real value of a virtual world for people with disabilities. I learned about disability issues that help me and that I can share with my daughter. I enjoyed classes and conversations related to technology, cooking, exercise, and more. I love dancing in Second Life. I was inspired to do whatever I can to contribute.
I continue today to share and participate. I try to get my non-virtual world friends to understand the reality of this virtual experience. I explain that Virtual Ability is an amazing informational and support world for people with disabilities and their supporters. Being able to access this virtual world was originally for my daughter and for my research. But, like so many in this community VAI, being here has helped me to find fulfillment in my own life as well. It truly is an amazing world.