Using her avatar, Alice Krueger moves around a spacious living room filled with her friends. The party is laid-back. A man and woman relax on a gray couch, chatting. Others mingle about. These animated friends — all avatars — are talking about how they met and about real life.
In real life, Krueger uses a wheelchair. She has multiple sclerosis and walks with the help of crutches. In the virtual world, the 63-year-old Centennial woman uses an avatar — a three-dimensional alter ego that she calls Gentle Heron.
As Gentle Heron, Krueger has no physical restrictions. She can walk, dance, ride horses and even fly. And, she interacts daily with hundreds of other people across Colorado and the globe who — at least in the virtual world — also have no physical restrictions. In real life, most of them have disabilities or live with and care for someone with a disability.
Krueger created the computer program — called Virtual Ability — in 2007. The community, which exists within the computer world of Second Life, has grown to more than 700 people.
Users create avatars — much like those popularized in the Hollywood movie "Avatar."
This particular community includes people who are blind or deaf, who have suffered strokes and amputations or have other disabilities.
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