Metavers Emerging initiatives advocating for inclusive virtual worlds, allowing fair representation of people with disabilities
Launch Slideshow NFTY Collective has created a dozen inclusive avatars this year. — NFTY Collective
- This Tuesday, November 15, 2022 was published the second issue of 20 Mint, our media dedicated to Web3.
- The latter was developed in collaboration with the community gathered on the first issue.
- It is dedicated to inclusion; whether they are people with disabilities, women, or people who are far from digital.
If the first bricks of the metaverse are laid, everything remains to be done. to build. While the creation of new uses is being played out, a movement from the United States warns against the invisibilization of people with physical or mental disabilities.
Whether in the design of universes or avatars, “taking into account people with disabilities is still embryonic in the metaverse, says Maude Bonenfant, professor at the University of Montreal. the university from Quebec. Yet it is essential: without representation, a feeling of exclusion is created in the people concerned, even before knowing if they could benefit from interesting uses.” And to continue: “It has been; the case with video games in the 90s. There were very few relevant portrayals of female characters. The latter were stereotyped or hypersexualized. So women were not attracted to video games because it implied a gender transgression to be able to access video games. this universe.”
But the promises displayed today by the metaverse go well beyond this. of the simple playful universe. “If virtual worlds are oriented towards a reproduction of our daily life – with social interactions, purchases, cultural, educational or professional activities – then inclusion is all the more essential,” emphasizes the professor.
The avatar, an identity construction
Facing this observation, initiatives are beginning to emerge. The deodorant brand Rexona has organized a in Decentraland last April a virtual marathon, whereù the architecture was designed to be accessible with ramps for people in wheelchairs, for example. An inclusive library has been created. created especially to offer avatars equipped with prostheses or racing blades.
For its part, Ready Player Me, a design studio for interoperable avatars between different virtual worlds, allows “developers who use our platform to integrate attributes, such as crutches or wheelchairs, for example,” says content marketing manager Daniel Marcinkowski. The studio now wants to go further. He is currently working at; “New features to improve the consideration of age, facial features, and the ability to to alter the shapes and size of the avatar”s body,” he continues.
Other more sustainable projects are being structured, such as the NFTY Collective. “With more than a billion people with disabilities worldwide – often including disabilities that are not visible – it is essential to promote inclusion, explains the American Giselle Mota, who launched the collective this year. He created a dozen inclusive avatars, in a project called; “unhidden collection”. A partnership has been past with Wanderland this summer to be able to deploy them. “The goal is to work with platform and technology vendors to extend the use of these characters to people’ through games, NFTs, filters, etc. The idea is to allow people with disabilities to choose an avatar to choose from. their effigy, which reflects their true identity; physical if they wish,” she points out.
Diversify production teams
Because the virtual representation is just as important as the real, believes Maude Bonenfant. In the same way that diversity emojis has been acclaimed by Internet users with the evolution of social networks, that of avatars must be integrated. “Often non-gamers don’t fully appreciate the experiences they have had at play. through an avatar. This is an identity construction, through which we can live experiences based on the same social dynamics as those in the real world: a community, gaining social recognition… enumerates the professor. Added to this are criteria specific to virtual worlds. For example, it is possible to create new social links without prejudice. In the metaverse, there is no social class, gender or even ethnicity. So it can enrich the social life of the individual.”
Beyond declarations of good intentions, how to make the metaverse more inclusive in practice? “Physical spaces and technologies have often lagged behind; to take into account people with disabilities – and even today, the accessibility remains a challenge despite the presence of norms and laws aimed at guarantee the opposite, emphasizes Giselle Mota. It is important that virtual worlds are designed with and by people with disabilities – and not just “for them”. A more inclusive metaverse will require “diversification of production teams. As soon as women, sexual minorities or people with disabilities are integrated, then their realities are naturally taken into account in the projects,” says Maude Bonenfant . There are pixels on the board.