Assistive Technology Interoperability between Virtual and Real Worlds


  • Alice Krueger Virtual Ability, Inc.
  • Margaret Grace Stineman M.D., Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania



Accessibility is an important area of interoperability between real and virtual worlds that must be considered during standards-setting. The number of persons with disabilities is large and increasing, as is their use of virtual worlds. All elements of virtual worlds must be accessible. Four types of real world disability impact functioning in virtual worlds: keyboard/mouse; print; hearing/speech; and cognitive. Some virtual worlds include accessibility features, such as resizable UI elements and fonts. Alternative keyboards and mice usually work adequately in virtual worlds. However, common text-to-speech, speech-to-text, and screen reader software doesn't interface well with virtual worlds.

Existing accessibility guidelines and legislation (Universal Design, Internet accessibility standards and guidelines, and online game accessibility guidelines) might be applicable to virtual worlds. Practical limitations to implementation of these solutions include their complexity and cost. As government agencies, universities, and employers increase their use of virtual worlds, specific standards for virtual world accessibility, including interfacing with common assistive technology, need to be created and enforced.