Humans are social by nature. We seek out companionship with others in our daily lives, and being around others plays a large role in our level of life satisfaction.

 

Perhaps that’s why social media has become so popular so fast. Social technologies break down the barriers of location, as we’re able to communicate with people all over the world, right from our computers and mobile devices.

 

Social media is also breaking down barriers for people living with disabilities. Through social media, these individuals can overcome physical limitations and participate in social life more easily.

 

Virtual worlds offer one of the most realistic social experiences for people online. In virtual worlds, people can create alter egos which they can use to build new relationships or maintain existing ones. Social networks like Second Life allow users to perform an astounding number of regular “real world” tasks as avatars online.

 

For people with mobility issues or communication disorders, this ability to live virtually through an avatar is opening– quite literally – a whole new world of opportunity for connecting and enhancing social life.

 

People with lifelong disability often have difficulties with communication, which impacts their ability to interact with others and to initiate and maintain friendships. Therefore, they miss out on the connectivity that the rest of us enjoy every day.

 

Also, people with communication hurdles may experience problems accessing community activities and gaining acceptance within the community at large. These obstacles can lead to isolation and loneliness, leaving people with disabilities with fewer relationships and opportunities to participate in community life.

 

Imagine if the physical and communication-related barriers were removed for these people. That’s exactly what virtual worlds provide – the removal of the barriers that keep some people from living as socially as they would like.

 

In our next post, we will delve into the ways virtual worlds provide a unique social experience that enables people with disabilities to experience this ordinary, but vital, aspect of human life.

 

Image credit: John Lester

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