Handicap and metaverse are not compatible a priori. People with reduced mobility or impaired motor function cannot actually take full advantage of the new Internet era. Nevertheless, by investing more in this axis, we can end up with something truly wonderful.
The Metaverse was built to provide more functionality to users. Walking around a virtual universe, buying wearables or plots of land are examples of fun activities that can be done there. However, this option is not apparently not made for everyone. Disabled people have not yet been given their permission to enjoy such a world without problems. Of course, a person who is unable to walk can choose a strong and athletic avatar. This is a great asset, especially for those who feel bad about themselves in real life. But a visually impaired person cannot explore the metaverse, which is an infinite universe. Just with the VR headset, it cannot do anything without specific accessories intended for this purpose… In this file, let’s find out more about what is happening around the subject.
The Metaverse was built to fulfill a standard need
The metaverse still seems little used. The video game industry remains a leader in the field. However, many companies are promising to enter this virtual world to improve the customer experience. This suggests that the metaverse will certainly be the center of all activity for the more or less near future.
However, the designers may not have had people with disabilities in mind when they designed the metaverse as we know it today. There is no specific VR headset anywhere that allows people with physical disabilities (deaf or blind) access to the metaverse. Similarly, there are no compatible controllers for those with motor disabilities.
For some, the metaverse is like cars. It was built for meet the needs of a standard audience. A car manufacturer is not going to build a specific vehicle for the disabled if it does not know in advance that it will be sold. The difference between auto and metaverse is that the latter is for public use and not for sale.
People with disabilities thus do not, at least until today, have access to this universe. In other words, the current features of the metaverse marginalize them.
Handicap is a block to access the metaverse
Access to the metaverse is not limited to merely wanting. You need VR accessories like the headset and controllers. The VR headset, which is already difficult for a normal person to wear, is even more so for a person with a physical disability. ThoughOculus Quest 2 has hand tracking, it can be frustrating to use at times.
Neither do VR controllers harbours enabling disabled people to use it. And if in the future version of the metaverse we don’t need controllers, how are we supposed to move if we don’t have no members ?
Also, when the person is visually impaired, he cannot know what his avatar is doing as he cannot even see it. So how could she access this wonderful world that is the metaverse with her disability? How could these people work in the metaverse if they are denied access?
The features required for the metaverse to be truly inclusive
It would be an exaggeration to say that the creation of the metaverse was done without concern for people with disabilities. Nevertheless, it is important to put forward some ideas that can work to make it inclusive, such as haptic technology for the visually impaired, e.g.
In fact, touch and haptics can be of great benefit to blind people. This will allow them to explore the virtual world with their hands, just like in real life. In this case, designers should consider an assortment of hand movements to help those with motor impairments.
In addition, consideration should also be given to the use of subtitles to help deaf people know their place and direction in the metaverse. Which is a real challenge because the metaverse is presented in 3D.
How do you integrate people with disabilities into the metaverse?
When everyone, including people with physical disabilities, can access the metaverse, other questions arise. The first is whether this world hasavatars with the same problems. Yes, can a person who uses a wheelchair present themselves as such in the metaverse or not? Can a blind person define a blind avatar? Etc.
In the metaverse as we see it today, everyone is free to create their own avatar according to their choices and preferences. It can be equipped with wearables to give it a boost. However, as far as we know, there has not yet been a disabled avatar in this virtual world. We even wonder if some use it as another way to free themselves from their real appearance.
So why not offer those who want to remain themselves the opportunity to show themselves as such? Just create specific accessories like the white cane or the wheelchair among others. It can help other people with disabilities look like they do in the real world.
And if everyone stays the way they are, can everyone make changes on their own without disturbing the other members of the community? These include, for example, increasing the volume when you personally think it is too low, or adjusting the subtitles on the screen to read them well.
Can we imagine a metaverse accessible to all?
In principle, it is possible to imagine one metaverse available to all. It is only necessary to remember the limitations and the challenges to be addressed. First, we need to design accessibility tools adapted to all metaverses. Secondly, we also have to think about the legal aspect, that is to establish a legal framework similar to that in the real world, where everyone is equal. Finally, we must not neglect the technological aspect in which developers must be able to design a metaverse that includes all these details.
Design custom accessibility tools
First, we know that the tech giants are racing to develop a closed metaverse. This is to achieve the most possible benefits. Therefore is accessibility concept is of course excluded.
If, for example, materials designed to explore Meta’s metaverse cannot be used inNvidia’s Omniverse. Likewise if a Sony avatar is not functional in Microsoft’s platform. So anyone with a disability would be marginalized because they would have to have all the specific tools to explore each metaverse.
On the other hand, if the designers agree to produce one range of hardware compatible with all metaversesthen we can hope for a virtual universe accessible to all.
Disability and metaverse: Establishing an inclusive legal framework
Having a disability can expose the person to permanent problems in the metaverse. However, these people have the right to integrate any metaverse. They are also capable of what normal people can do. In this way, it is necessary to establish a healthy and non-discriminatory legal environment so everyone has the same rights.
For example, Gregory Cuilleron, this cordon bleu, does not have a left forearm. However, he has the right to exhibit his skills in the metaverse. Or Gilbert Montagné, the blind singer and writer/composer also has the right to exercise his talents inside the virtual world.
An accessible and inclusive metaverse, a great challenge for developers
Developing an inclusive metaverse is certainly possible, but not without difficulties. Then it takes seasoned developers to create subtitles in a fully immersive 3D environment. Creating specific materials to allow disabled people to create an avatar that represents their personality in the real world is also a real challenge. We are talking here about the white cane, hearing aids, wheelchairs or even prostheses.
What would be the advantage/disadvantage of an inclusive metaverse?
The Metaverse is an extension of real life in that you can do anything you do in the real world. Besides playing games and buying virtual assets, it is also fascinating to be able to live a life in the metaverse. Artists can, for example, organize exhibitions, fairs or even virtual shows.
Furthermore, the metaverse can also be one refuge for people with disabilities. As we saw above, anyone is free to create an avatar of their choice. In this case, a person with motor impairments can present himself as a normal person. In addition, it is possible to customize your metaverse by adjusting certain screen parameters such as volume or captions.
However, it should be noted that creating an avatar that does not represent its real appearance can lead to identity issues. In fact, the person in question no longer wants to disconnect. In the long run, this will raise one identity problem.