Universal Design for Virtual Worlds


  • Alice Krueger Virtual Ability, Inc.
  • Ann Ludwig
  • David Ludwig




Universal Design, accessibility, design, Virtual Worlds


We describe three broad approaches to the issue of accessibility design within Virtual Worlds. Our intent is to stimulate the thinking of content designers within Virtual Worlds about these approaches. Approach 1: Minimal accessibility design principles incorporated into the Virtual World For much of the current state of Virtual Worlds, this is the default situation: Minimal consideration has been given during design or construction to accessibility issues. This may be the preferred approach when the intent of the designer is artistic creativity. Approach 2: Emulate Real World accessibility design principles in the Virtual World In this approach, the designer replicates various aspects of Real World accessibility within the virtual setting. This approach is preferred when the intent is to create learning opportunities about Real World Universal Design or accessibility standards and requirements. Approach 3: Incorporate only accessibility design principles that are appropriate for the Virtual World This approach is focused entirely on the virtual environment. The only constraints of importance to the designer are those of the technology itself; Real World accessibility standards are not considered relevant. We then use these three perspectives to address Virtual World accessibility in landscapes, structures, movement, communication, and perceived environments. Designers should consider which approach best fits the desired intent and audience of their creation. We advocate that for most builds, designers incorporate accessibility principles that are appropriate for the Virtual World, and not be constrained to a literal translation of Real World standards and requirements. We conclude that this is a definition of Universal Design for Virtual Worlds.