An increasing number of people with lifelong disability are active members of virtual worlds. Through their avatars, people with disability are able to participate in social, work related and educational activities in the virtual world. The aim for this paper was to explore how people with lifelong disability experienced the relationship with their virtual self and others, applying the lens of Embodied Social Presence Theory. Based on data collected through participant observation and interviews with novice and experienced users of Second Life, our findings indicate that the relationship between humans and their avatar is strong. Further, the findings indicate that the relationship with a person?s own avatar and others in the virtual world requires time to develop and be meaningful for people with lifelong disability. The ability to create an avatar with no visible disability and to choose what to disclose about a disability, is important affordances offered by the virtual world to people with disability. This study contributes to an understanding of the potential for virtual worlds to support people with lifelong disability in engaging in leisure activities and social interactions.
Stendal, Karen; Molka-Danielsen, Judith; Munkvold, Bjørn Erik; and Balandin, Susan, "VIRTUAL WORLDS AND PEOPLE WITH LIFELONG DISABILITY: EXPLORING THE RELATIONSHIP WITH VIRTUAL SELF AND OTHERS" (2012). ECIS 2012 Proceedings. 156.