Have you ever thought about how physical accessibility can change when we are in a Virtual experience?
In physical environments, the force of gravity is one of the most evident impediments that constrain people with physical impairments from fully accessing the physical world.
However, in the metaverse and digital, virtual environments, we have a great opportunity to reduce physical accessibility barriers as there is no force of gravity.
Will this opportunity allow the architects of the metaverse to design chairs, tables, and furniture without legs?
These and many other questions will shape not only the metaverse itself but also how people perceive it and what they desire from it. An essential aspect of accessibility concerns the comfort of certain technologies that people with different needs experience.
For instance, seamlessly adjusting the distance between pupils, wearing eyeglasses with VR headsets for extended periods, and managing conditions like labyrinthitis, mental fatigue, or cybersickness will influence access and perception of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies.
Another aspect of accessibility relates to the fact that most VR headsets are currently designed for adults, neglecting the needs of the K-12 age group.
This challenge excludes a large audience from the potential use of digital immersive environments.
The same applies to people with physical or sensory disabilities, as well as those with low digital literacy skills or limited access to expensive devices and technologies available in the market. When discussing accessibility, it's important to remember that the Internet wasn't initially designed to be accessible to all.
However, as it gained popularity and advocacy groups called for accessibility, developers and designers began to improve it.
Best practices, regulations like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and tools and technologies such as screen-readers, high contrast mode, and voice control were developed to enable different ways of accessing the web. Today, with VR and AR, we are at a different point in history.
There is greater knowledge of Inclusive Design, and an increased understanding of DEI practices, and regulations on accessibility.
Therefore, the design community has no excuses not to create a truly inclusive and accessible Metaverse and its technologies from the start.
Tech companies are in a prime position to build more inclusive products and provide equitable opportunities to a wide range of people.
With the Metavethics Institute, these companies can access the right tools to design, build, deliver, and sustain ethically and inclusively digital environments in the metaverse.
Do you want to become a Metavethicist?