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Seeing…Vision and Perception in a Digital Culture

Graham McAllister, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
Seeing in 3D: New Problems In Accessibility

Virtual worlds such as Second Life are becoming an increasingly popular place to learn, socialise, and do business. However, these 3D virtual worlds are not accessible to people who are visually impaired, effectively creating a digital divide. This paper discusses the barriers to access for blind and visually impaired people to these increasingly popular environments, and asks the question to the CHArt community, ‘Can we engage in 3D digital worlds without vision?’

The paper will detail the problems that are presented when the modality of vision is removed from 3D worlds and present approaches that attempt to map the affordances of vision onto the modalities of sound and touch. It will achieve this by presenting a series of visual scenarios (screenshots) from Second Life that represent typical tasks and propose how these highly visual scenes can be remapped onto audio and touch for people who are blind. In addition to various scenarios being presented, alternative approaches to the remapping model will also be presented and discussed.

The list of problems to be solved will be analyzed and will include; navigating in 3D digital worlds without vision, mapping multimodal feedback, object occlusion, context, collaboration with sighted people, social issues and interaction design.

This problem of how to make 3D worlds accessible is more likely to be solved whenever there is a combination of artists, engineers, scientists, psychologists and other disciplines present to discuss the various approaches possible. It is expected that this paper will prompt active discussion and debate, ultimately leading to progress in the field.

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