The Use of Virtual Worlds Among People with Disabilities

Session Title

The Use of Virtual Worlds Among People with Disabilities


Kel Smith, Anikto LLC

Session Type: Presentation

With their emphasis on 3D graphics and complex interface controls, it would appear that gaming interfaces and virtual worlds have little to offer people with disabilities. On the contrary, virtual worlds serve as a form of augmented reality where users transcend physiological or cognitive challenges to great social and therapeutic benefit. A number of intriguing developments exist within the accessibility sector: haptic input devices for the blind, virtual regions developed according to Universal Design principles, communities dedicated to people with cognitive disorders, the use of the avatar as counsellor, applications in higher education, and customizable personae that either transcend or represent a disabled person’s self-identity.


Kel Smith is a nationally recognized authority on Web accessibility, with a list of publications that have been cited by the Pentagon Library, Kent State’s Knowledge Management Program, and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. In February 2008 he founded Anikto (ah-NEEK-toh) as a consultancy to explore and support the creation of barrier-free digital experiences spanning multiple disciplines, markets and contexts. He presented on the topic of virtual world applications at the CSUN 2009 Technology Conference for Persons with Disabilities and at the TechShare 2009 conference in London, UK. Kel is a member of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) and the Information Architecture Institute (IAI), and he currently serves as Vice Chair of the Philadelphia chapter of ACM/SIG-CHI for computer-human interaction. He earned his BFA in photography from the Maryland Institute College of Art and studied cognitive science as part of MS program at Philadelphia University.