Discussing the Potential for Accessibility in the Metaverse

Despite the media hype describing the metaverse as a place, the truth is, it is actually a way of using technology. The term in fact describes the ability to move through endless connected virtual worlds to do all of the things we currently do separately—meet via Zoom, buy things, scroll Instagram, play games. The metaverse won’t become possible all at once; rather, the digital platforms that already seem immersive will become even more so. Those with access to technologies like augmented reality glasses (yep, those are making a comeback) and virtual reality (VR) headsets will be able to make the most out of these experiences. This means the limits of those technologies will carry over into the metaverse as well. 

Accessibility in the metaverse expands the possibilities of inclusive design, represented by a rainbow spectrum with technological designs overlaid
Image courtesy of Metropolis.

Take VR headsets, for example. Despite decades of development, they are still quite expensive to own and bulky to wear, and the content they present is mostly geared to sighted, hearing people. The more immersive VR experiences become, the more parts of the body they involve—hands to hold controllers, even legs and arms to feed information into the virtual game or activity. But what if you can’t see, hear, speak, or move easily? What if you have a sensory processing disorder, or severe anxiety? What if you’re one of the large percentage of people (mostly women) who say they experience motion sickness in virtual reality? What if you simply don’t have a high-speed internet connection? 

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