Virtual Helping Hands

Virtual Helping Hands is a non-profit organization and was founded by Janyth Ussery (SL alias: Saxet Uralia) in 2009.

Through a combination of both virtual and RL methods the Virtual Helping Hands team attempts to help people with their mental, physical, and spiritual health. The team is dedicated to helping the disabled by providing resources and assistance in order to give them a better virtual experience within Second Life. Additionally, they are concentrating their efforts on making the virtual world equally accessible to disabled persons as it is for those that are nondisabled. VHH attempts to create new technologies for disabled persons which help accomplish these goals.

There are four specific projects which VHH has accomplished so far. The first is Max the Guide Dog who assists those who are unable to use computer interfaces properly because of their disabilities. Max is designed for those who are visually impaired, completely blind, dyslexic, or word impaired. Most people with these disabilities do not use a mouse in order to access the internet, but instead use screen readers. Unfortunately, these screen readers are not programed to function very well with Second Life. This is where Max comes in. Max is designed to audibly tell users what is going on in Second Life. Users can initiate commands to Max or in world items can be programed to command max to say something. Location commands help the user figure out where they are. Looking Around commands help the user determine what is around them in world. Moving commands move the user's avatar. Help commands provide the user with useful information. Marco Polo commands dictate whether Max should act out commands that are given by objects in world. Lastly, Appearance commands can change Max's appearance from a guide dog, to a cane, or to a ring. This feature is especially useful to avatars that are armless, have wheelchairs, or simply wish to perform actions such as dance and not be attached to a dog while they do so.

Second Abilities Mentors are a group that are committed to guide and aid disabled persons in the virtual world. The goal of SAM is to train dedicated volunteers to assist and aid those who are disabled. The group currently has over 150 volunteers. There is a strict 10 rule code of conduct that all members must follow. All SAM members must declare that they are not professionals to those that they aid in order to avoid legal issues. Each volunteer is carefully assessed and trained in order to properly help those in need. Once declared a member of SAM each volunteer decides on a specific time at which they are "on-call" to help those in need.

Club Accessible (formerly known as "Wheelies") (SLURL) is a virtual place in SL which was designed to provide access and a good social atmosphere to disabled persons. The club features special events every week with some of Second Life's greatest DJs. On Tuesdays the club listens to a special radio show hosted by Second Life's very first fully blind member named Jolie Mason. She co-hosts a RL radio show under her SL name Jolie1 Magic. The show is called access unlimited. Club Accessible is open at all times and all are welcome. The club's future goals involve training disabled persons to be DJ's for clubs in SL. They are hoping to be able to pay these DJ's minimum wage and maybe even help them buy their own DJ equipment in RL.

Lastly, Accessible Builds is a program originally created by Chade Villota and Polgara Paine in May of 2008. The program was created in order to construct accessible buildings for RL disabled persons in the SL Taupo Region. The first build undertaken by the project was Club Accessible (formerly known as Wheelies). Ever since then the project has built housing arrangements to live in and stores to work at for those that are disabled in RL. Additionally, a modeling group called "Eclectic Vissions" has also made their home on the Taupo Region Island. The most recent project completed by the program was "The Captain's Cup" which is a coffee shop for those who live on the island. Furthermore, Accessible Builds is working on future projects such as one which aims to reduce lag by moving vendors to different, less clustered, areas.

Just recently it has been announced that Virtual Helping Hands has made the 10 finalists for the 2010 Linden Prize.