Monday, November 28, 2016

Support Virtual Ability When You Shop at Amazon

If you are one of the many people who use, you can support Virtual Ability every time you shop. Just use to launch Amazon instead of the usual “”, and Amazon will automatically donate 0.5% of your purchase price to Virtual Ability, Inc.® There is no additional cost to you (or to VAI) whatsoever.

Virtual Ability uses the funds generated by this program to help pay for our community services, including our Second Life and InWorldz islands.

Just remember to use this link when you sign into Amazon, and you will be directly helping us!

How does AmazonSmile work?
When first visiting AmazonSmile, customers select a charitable organization from almost one million eligible organizations. For eligible purchases at AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to the customer’s selected charitable organization.

What is the AmazonSmile Foundation?
The AmazonSmile Foundation is a 501(c)(3) private foundation created by Amazon to administer the AmazonSmile program. All donation amounts generated by the AmazonSmile program are remitted to the AmazonSmile Foundation. In turn, the AmazonSmile Foundation donates those amounts to the charitable organizations selected by our customers. Amazon pays all expenses of the AmazonSmile Foundation; they are not deducted from the donation amounts generated by purchases on AmazonSmile.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

IDRAC Spotlight: Meet L’Arche- Saturday, November 19, 8am SLT

The first IDRAC session for Saturday November 19, beginning at 8am Pacific, is an opportunity to “Meet L’Arche.” Begun in France in 1964, L’Arche is now an international network of intentional mixed residential communities for people with and without intellectual disabilities.

Melanie Saxon, Community Leader / Executive Director of L’Arche Jacksonville (FL) will share some of L’Arche’s history and mission through the use of short videos. The facilities of L’Arche Jacksonville include four homes, a community center and the Rainbow Workshop day program.

Ms. Saxon’s previous roles include Executive Director of the North Central Florida Chapter of the American Red Cross, Development Director of University of Florida Performing Arts, Executive Director of Voices for Kids of Southwest Florida and Executive Director of the North Central Florida AIDS Network.

In addition, Ms. Saxon has raised funds for United Way, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. She served as Executive Producer of the Florida Film Festival and has coordinated numerous arts in education programs in K-12 schools, along with teaching third grade. Her additional volunteer experience includes serving as a Rotarian, a Stephen Minister, and a Big Sister.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

IDRAC Speaker Spotlight: The L’Arche Story

L'Arche began in 1964 when Catholic theologian Jean Vanier visited French asylums for persons with intellectual disabilities. He was overwhelmed by the sadness of these institutions, and recognized the need of their residents for being part of a community. He bought a small house in Trosly-Breuil (France) and invited two men to move out of an asylum and live with him. That home still exists, and Jean Vanier still lives there.

L'Arche First Home
"The secret of L’Arche is relationship: meeting people, not through the filters of certitudes, ideologies, idealism or judgments, but heart to heart; listening to people with their pain, their joy, their hope, their history, listening to their heart beats."
Jean Vanier, An Ark for the Poor: The Story of L’Arche

L’Arche is a model of intentional inclusive communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as peers. The concept grew and spread in France and throughout the world. L’Arche Daybreak was opened in Toronto, Canada, in 1969. The first l’Arche to incorporate people of the Hindu faith opened in India in 1970, showing that the concept transcends cultures. L’Arche Erie (Pennsylvania) became the first to open in the US in 1972. Today there are 18 l’Arche communities in the US, and 129 others in 40 countries worldwide.

L'Arche Logo
"L’Arche’s first seeds were planted in the earth of the Roman Catholic Church. Through God’s grace, others seeds were planted in other soils...L’Arche became ecumenical when it welcomed men and women with [disabilities] who belonged to different denominations and different religions."
Jean Vanier, An Ark for the Poor: The Story of L’Arche

The name "l’Arche" means "the Ark" in French. Many faiths - Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and earlier cultures - tell stories of a boat saving people from a world-devastating flood. The symbolism of an Ark for these communities is apt; they are places where people are safe. The friendships formed among l’Arche residents transforms society as they cross social boundaries and affirm the importance of all community members, including those with intellectual disabilities.

Founder Jean Vanier has written 30 books explaining the l’Arche concept and how it has changed his life. His words about the importance of community in all our lives are truly inspirational. He received the 2015 Templeton Prize for his exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.

Jean Vanier, Founder of L'Arche
"The heart gives and receives but above all, it gives."
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human

Virtual Ability member Mook Wheeler has created a number of displays and exhibits on Healthinfo Island about l’Arche, Jean Vanier, and the concept of community for persons with disabilities. Please visit them to stimulate your thinking about information provided during the 2016 International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference, November 18 and 19.



International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference (IDRAC)
Friday November 18, 2016 - 8:00am- 3:00pm
Saturday, November 19, 2016 - 8:00am - 1:30pm
The Sojourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability Island in Second Life®

IDRAC Speaker Spotlight: Chronic Pain Anonymous Panel

Pain is a sensation generated in the nervous system. Two kinds of pain are recognized: acute and chronic. Acute pain is a message to the body that something is wrong, perhaps an injury. It goes away when the cause of the pain is addressed.

Chronic pain is different, and can exist for months without an apparent cause although sometimes it begins from an injury. Chronic pain can be debilitating, affecting all aspects of a person’s life. One study found that in various countries between one in ten and half of all persons deal with chronic pain, and that it is more common in men than in women.

People with chronic pain often use distraction as a self-management technique to deal with their symptoms. Virtual worlds can provide plenty of distraction, so it should not surprise SL users that some of us live with chronic pain.

The peer support group Chronic Pain Anonymous (CPA) offers fellowship with others dealing with chronic pain in a variety of environments, face-to-face and electronically-mediated. CPA came into Second Life in 2016 as an expansion of community venues. On Friday, November 18, at 11am Pacific, a panel of CPA members will share their lives and their experiences with CPA, both outside and inside the virtual world.

The five panelists we will hear from include:

Shyla the Super Gecko (KriJon Resident)
Shlya is a former storm chaser, outdoor adventurer and comedian who, to pay the bills, developed industry-specific solutions and implemented enterprise-wide systems for Fortune 500 companies. Shyla is a published author, editor, blogger and poet. She is also a caregiver.

As Shyla's condition progressed, a combination of spondylolisthesis, osteoarthritis, peripheral neuropathy and Achilles tendonitis, her life changed dramatically. She has limited mobility and lives in constant pain which reaches 'severe' levels on an almost daily basis. She sought support in various groups, including Chronic Pain Anonymous.

Ivy Lane (RL: Lee Ann B)
Ivy Lane was born in Second Life in January of 2007, while her alter ego Lee Ann B was attending the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. Ivy was created as part of Lee Ann’s senior project which needed to be a three dimensional environment. So Ivy was born a Project Manager destined to create the Turtle Gallery, the first ever online virtual 3D resume used to showcase her artistic abilities and range. Lee Ann is a successful artist, published writer and a loving mentor.

Chronic pain has been Lee Ann’s constant companion for over 25 years now, so life is a one day at a time adventure in learning how to cope and still function enough to feel like a contributing member of society. She spent five years volunteering for a local no-kill shelter called Attleboro Friends of Cats, Inc. This was a life-changing event that brought her into the world of photography and as the Assistant Director of all things Internet she improved their web presence, photographed all kitties and increased adoptions by 66% within the first year of taking the non-profit organization online.

As her chronic daily pain increased and caused some loss of mobility, Lee Ann sought a solution that might help her accept her new level of pain and disability and found the blessing of Chronic Pain Anonymous to maintain an attitude of acceptance and gratitude.

Teejens is a wife, mom to three grown children and grandmother to seven. Her last place of employment was at a large online store as a Quality Assurance Representative. Some of her hobbies include painting, reading and keeping up with the latest fashions.

She has been diagnosed with Degenerative Disk Disease, Spondylosis, Osteoarthritis, Fibromyalgia and most recently with Peripheral Neuropathy. She is in a constant state of pain and her conditions are growing worse. She is grateful for the opportunity to speak today and for the support groups that are available to assist her in learning how to live her life with chronic pain.

WCD1002 (RL: David S)
David is a quirky, free-thinking, problem solver with a range of interests, from cooking and reading to gaming. In his professional life, David is a Public Accountant and Trustee for a charity.

David has a very rare degenerative muscle condition, post-transplant 13 years. He has a range of background pain and sudden flare ups. He suffers with fatigue and is a wheelchair user. David found CPA through the fellowship and also a member of another Twelve Step Program.

TammyzHere (RL: Tammy W)
Tammy was a poor, single mom while putting herself through university. After graduating, she had some office jobs and ended up in the Chicago building trades. The job had a 100 lb lifting requirement. She was the 7th woman in her union of 1500 men.

She was collecting unemployment in 2008 when the economy fell apart. During that time, she took care of her mom who died of cancer in spring of 2009. Two months later, her dad got diagnosed with cancer and had a very debilitating stroke. She became his full time caregiver.

A combination of things (stress and lack of proper health care) led to Tammy becoming seriously ill with multiple autoimmune disorders. A series of medical treatments made her medical situation much worse. After being laid up for about 3 or 4 years, Tammy found CPA.

Monday, November 14, 2016

IDRAC Speaker Spotlight: Caroline Pavis

“Engaging and Empowering Online Health Communities”

For the past two years, Janssen (Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson) has hosted HealtheVoices, the first-ever conference focused on bringing together online patient health advocates to help them further grow and engage their online patient communities. Nearly 100 leaders of online patient communities, also known as bloggers or patient opinion leaders, attended the conference in 2016. These advocates represent a wide variety of health conditions and diseases.

On Friday, November 18, the 2016 International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference (IDRAC) will begin with a presentation at 8am Pacific by Caroline Pavis, Communications Leader, Janssen Oncology & Immunology. In her presentation, Ms. Pavis will share highlights of the 2015 and 2016 HealtheVoices conferences, and discuss plans to host a third HealtheVoices on April 21-23, 2017, in Chicago.

Caroline Pavis currently serves as Communications Leader for Janssen Biotech, Inc., a division of Johnson & Johnson, where she oversees integrated public relations and communications initiatives for Janssen’s Oncology and Immunology Business Units. Caroline joined Johnson & Johnson in 2011. Prior to joining Janssen Biotech, Caroline served as Director, Global Communications for Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Care where she led internal and external communications on behalf of the global franchise and served as a member of the Animas Management Board.

With nearly 20 years of public relations and corporate communications experience, Caroline joined Johnson & Johnson from GolinHarris, a global public relations consultancy agency, where she was responsible for overseeing strategic marketing programs for several pharmaceutical, medical device and consumer healthcare companies. Caroline lives in Coopersburg, Pa. with her husband and three kids, where she is adjusting to the quiet country life (and endless yard work) after moving from the big city of Chicago.

International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference (IDRAC)
Friday November 18, 2016 - 8:00am- 3:00pm
Saturday, November 19, 2016 - 8:00am - 1:30pm
Soujourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability Island in Second Life®

Saturday, November 12, 2016

IDRAC Speaker Spotlight: Professor Theresa Lorenzo and Siphokazi Sompeta

Creating Inclusive Communities: The Role of Community Disability Practitioners in Africa

Persons with disabilities and their families still experience stigma and a high degree of social exclusion especially in rural communities, which are often poorly resourced and serviced. Disability-inclusive development requires a workforce equipped with skills to work intersectorally and in a transdisciplinary manner in order to that will promote delivery of services in remote and rural areas. The IDRAC session on Friday at 9:30am Pacific will discuss research on these topics.

Professor Theresa Lorenzo is an occupational therapist and PhD Programme Convenor in the Division of Disability Studies, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town (South Africa). She has extensive experience in engaged scholarship focused on developing a transdisciplinary community-based workforce to facilitate the implementation and monitoring of disability-inclusive development in Africa, with a focus on youth and women. Her Second Life name is Fish Eagle.

Siphokazi Sompeta (née Gcaza) is also an occupational therapist in the Division of Disability Studies, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town. She was the former chair of the Community-based Rehabilitation Africa Network that has advocated for the implementation of inclusive development programmes with a particularly focus on rural communities. Her research has explored chronic poverty of disabled persons in rural areas and the training of community rehabilitation workers. Her second life name is Vulithongo, which means Dream Opener in Isi-Xhosa, her mother tongue.

Together they will present an academic paper that explores the local experiences and practices of community-based disability workers (CDWs) in resource-limited rural communities in Botswana, Malawi and South Africa. It explores CDWs’ activities and strategies to contribute to improving the lives and increasing the levels of social, economic and political inclusion of people with disabilities, their families and communities. They argue that these competencies should be consolidated and strengthened in curricula, training and policy.

Three main themes emerged demonstrating the competencies of CDWs. First, integrated management of health conditions and impairments within a family focus. Second, negotiating for disability-inclusive community development. Third, coordinated and efficient intersectoral management systems.

Be sure to join us for this very informative presentation at the International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference (IDRAC) on Friday, the 18th of November, 9:30 AM Pacific Standard Time.

Friday, November 11, 2016

IDRAC Speaker Spotlight: Dr. Margaret Nosek

“Is your avatar a bulletproof vest?”

Find out the answer to this intriguing question on Saturday, November 19, at 9:30am Pacific. Dr. Margaret Nosek, Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, TX, US) and two co-presenters, Stephanie Silveira and Rachel Markley, will describe their work conducting challenging conversations for women with disabilities in virtual worlds. The Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD) at Baylor has conducted research with women with disabilities on several dicey topics, including sexuality, reproductive health, bladder and bowel management, weight management, and self-esteem. In their presentation, Nosek, Silvera and Markley will talk about feedback women have given them when they discuss some of these topics in Second Life and some of the difficulties and successes they have experienced in trying to make related information available online and in virtual worlds.

In addition to her position at Baylor, Dr. Nosek, PhD, is Senior Scientist at TIRR Memorial Hermann and Adjunct Professor in the College of Nursing at Texas Woman’s University, both in Houston. She researches ways to improve the health of women with physical disabilities, especially by improving reproductive health and access to healthcare services. She has conducted many large studies in Second Life.

Dr. Nosek is a member of the Board of Directors of Virtual Ability, Inc. She is a woman with a severe physical disability, and is a lifelong disability rights activist. She has won many honors both for her academic research and her activism.

Stephanie Silveira is a Graduate Research Assistant at University of Houston Department of Health and Human Performance, Baylor College of Medicine Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD), and TIRR Memorial Hermann. She is a fourth year doctoral student in kinesiology at the University of Houston with an interest in health promotion for individuals with mobility impairments. Her undergraduate degree is in psychology, where many of her current research interests reside, particularly as related to nutrition and physical activity. She was the project manager for CROWD’s GoWoman virtual reality weight loss intervention for women with mobility impairments. She is currently involved on several projects including a weight loss intervention for men and women with spinal cord injuries and a pilot nutrition and body composition measurement study of former and current heroin users receiving a virtual reality intervention. She led a team in reviewing literature on obesity measurement in people with spinal cord injuries, including an examination of the most accessible and valid ways to measure fat mass, height and weight.

Stephanie has conducted cross-sectional psychological research with wheelchair rugby athletes. She hopes to pursue this area further in order to help individuals with mobility impairments improve their quality of life through physical activity and exercise. She is also personally invested in training adaptive Crossfit athletes. She plans to focus her research career on reducing obesity in populations experiencing health disparities using telehealth and virtual reality interventions.

Rachel Markley, MPH, is a 2015 graduate of the University of Texas School of Public Health. Ms. Markley is a research assistant at the Center for Research on Women with Disabilities at TIRR Memorial Hermann and is involved in studies to develop health promotion interventions and expanded women’s health services for women with physical disabilities. She served as part of the research team for the GoWoman Virtual Reality Weight Management Program for Women with Mobility Impairments, and co-facilitated the development of an Internet-Based Empowerment and Self-Esteem Enhancement Intervention for Women with spinal cord injury, a 7-week intervention held in Second Life. Ms. Markley has significant physical limitations due to Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

IDRAC Speaker Spotlight: John Lester

"But you’re not supposed to use it that way!"

John Lester, known in Second Life as Pathfinder Lester, has been working with virtual worlds and online communities since the 1990s, creating online patient support groups at Massachusetts General Hospital for people dealing with neurological disorders, developing online immersive learning environments for students at Harvard, and helping build communities in Second Life that assist people living with disabilities. He worked at Linden Lab for 5 years where he founded Linden Lab's Boston Office and led the development of the education and healthcare markets in Second Life while evangelizing the innovative use of virtual worlds in research, art and immersive learning. John has also worked on multiuser virtual world development using the Unity platform, built bespoke multiuser VR worlds for education using the Oculus Rift, and dabbled with artificial life in augmented reality.

John continues to follow his passion for online communities and virtual worlds through his consulting and contracting work, designing and building immersive learning experiences using platforms such as OpenSimulator and Unity. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Virtual Ability, Inc., a non-profit organization that enables people with a wide range of disabilities by providing a supporting environment for them to enter and thrive in online virtual worlds like Second Life. At his day job, John works as a Product Manager at OpenText where he does R&D in unstructured data analytics and enterprise information management.

John has been working with online communities and virtual worlds since the early 1990’s, beginning with modem-powered BBS systems through early web-based forums and chatrooms and continuing with immersive multiuser 3d virtual worlds. Focusing on education and support, John has experienced a wide range of use cases and insights into how human behavior simultaneously shapes and is shaped by these tools.

John will present at this year’s International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference on Saturday, November 19, at 11am Pacific. The title of his presentation is: ‘“But you’re not supposed to use it that way!” - Exploring how people shape technologies to empower online communities.’ In this presentation, John will tell his story of how a continuing quest for more emotional bandwidth and perceptual immersion was enlightened by communities of people who often used technologies in completely unexpected and breathtakingly beautiful ways.

Photos courtesy Alice Krueger

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

IDRAC 2016 Speaker Spotlight: Shyla

Shyla is a former storm chaser, outdoor adventurer and comedian who, to pay the bills, developed industry specific solutions and implemented enterprise wide systems for Fortune 500 companies. Shyla is a published author, editor, blogger and poet. She is also a caregiver.

In Second Life, Shyla is a Super Gecko and wears a pink cape to note the distinction. She has never met another Gecko in SL, so there is really no way for her to compare her 'gecko-ness' to any other. However, as far as geckos go, she likes to think she is pretty super. She enjoys customizing, building and texturing in Second Life. She creates theme builds on her Nautilus Island parcel to benefit organizations in Second Life assisting People With Disabilities.

On September 11, 2001, Shyla was enjoying a day off, resting on her sofa when the first news reports of the terrorist attack aired. Shortly thereafter, her co-workers were sent home as a nation began to grieve and much of the world with it. She worked as a business partner with several people in the Towers that day, and remembers the anxiety as she and her staff waited for confirmation they were all okay. Sadly, she would come to know not all of them survived.

She did not see herself as disabled at that time, nor did she consider the context of the stories being conveyed about people with disability who were saved on 9/11. But as the 15th anniversary approached this year, Shyla wanted to learn the story of her community as it related to 9/11. What began as a historical curiosity revealed serious issues about how our stories are told by a predominantly able-bodied media and the inclusion and consideration of PWDs (People With Disabilities) in emergency planning even today. The result is "9/11: The PWD Story".

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

IDRAC Displays on Healthinfo Island

Healthinfo Island is directly west of Virtual Ability island. It houses several facilities related to health and wellness, including displays and exhibits on topics about health and wellness. During Virtual Ability conferences, displays and exhibits provide additional information on topics related to the conference theme.

The theme of the 2016 International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference is “We’re Part of the Community.” Conference attendees will have an opportunity to learn from series of posters in addition to hearing from the presenters. Virtual Ability member Mook Wheeler has created several educational displays and exhibits.

“The L’Arche Story” is a collection of 20 posters explaining the history and mission of L’Arche. Begun in France, l’Arche creates intentional communities worldwide where people with intellectual disabilities live and work alongside other people and share in the community responsibilities. You can learn more about L’Arche here:

Twenty posters tell “The History of the Independent Living Movement.” Ed Roberts is considered the father of the independent living movement in the US, but it is now a worldwide effort to support people with disabilities as they participate in all aspects of the communities in which they are located. This display is found here:

“Why is Community Important to People With Disabilities?” is the topic of a third display. The L’Arche communities exemplify community living for people with intellectual disabilities, and the Independent Living Movement was begun to promote inclusion of persons with severe physical disabilities. Why is inclusion of all persons with any type of disability important to the overall health of a community? Find out here:

Mook also created a smaller exhibit on the topic: “The Role of Organizations for People With Disabilities.” Read about Disabled Peoples’ International, the first international cross-disability organization, and find out about the many roles played by disabled peoples’ organizations at all levels, including in Second Life. This display is here:

An exhibit above the lake on Healthinfo Island contains a poster set that addresses the question: “What Do You Call People With Disabilities?” It discusses what is known as People First Language. Find the answer to that question here:

Additional poster sets will be appearing as we move toward the opening of IDRAC 2016 at 8:00am SLT (US Pacific Standard Time) on Friday, November 18. Be watching for them!

Monday, November 7, 2016

IDRAC 2016 Schedule

International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference

"We’re Part of the Community.”

Friday, November 18

8am Caroline Pavis of Johnson and Johnson will talk about their HealthEVoices disability bloggers conference.
9:30am Theresa Lorenzo of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, will talk about her research on ways to make disability-inclusive services available in rural areas of South Africa, Botswana and Malawi.
11am A panel of members of Chronic Pain Anonymous will talk about peer support in various social media venues.
12:30pm Members of the Baylor College of Medicine (TX) Center for Research on Women with Disabilities will talk about their GoWoman weight management project for women with mobility disabilities.
2pm Maggie Sheets with the Disability Policy Consortium of Massachusetts will explain the importance of including people with disability in policy making.

Saturday, November 19

8am l’Arche, an intentional mixed residential community for people with and without intellectual disabilities (presenter still being confirmed).
9:30am Margaret Nosek, professor in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine, will talk about her research projects in Second Life for women with physical disabilities.
11am John Lester, expert in online communities and former Education Liaison with Linden Lab, will talk about early patient support communities in virtual worlds created by Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard.
12:30pm A presentation by Virtual Ability community member KriJon about people with disabilities and 9/11.

Friday, November 4, 2016

IDRAC 2016 Speaker Spotlight: Dr. Margaret Nosek

Dr. Margaret Nosek and colleagues present Friday, November 18th, 12:30-1:30pm SLT/US Pacific, at Virtual Ability's International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference. They will discuss “Women with mobility impairments in community weight loss programs: Exploring new venues in virtual worlds.”

Women with mobility impairments have two major barriers to maintaining an appropriate weight. Their lack of mobility means that they are at greater risk of becoming obese, and there are no commercial public weight loss programs designed specifically for women with disabilities. The Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD) at Baylor College of Medicine designed a project to address these barriers.
This presentation will provide information about the prevalence of overweight and obesity among women with disabilities, the difficulties they experience in trying to access community-based weight loss programs, and the pilot study conducted on the GoWoman weight management program for women with mobility impairments in Second Life.

Margaret (Peg) Nosek, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine and Senior Scientist at TIRR Memorial Hermann (Houston, TX, US). She is the Executive Director of the Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD). She holds an additional position as Adjunct Professor in the College of Nursing at Texas Woman’s University, Houston. Her doctorate is in rehabilitation research from the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Nosek’s main research interest is on improving the health of women with physical disabilities, especially developing interventions disparities in reproductive health and access to healthcare services. She has conducted many large funded studies, several of which have taken place in Second Life. She is the author of numerous publications and the recipient of several prestigious awards, from organizations such as the American College of Physical Medicine and the Rehabilitation Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association.

Dr. Nosek lives with spinal muscular atrophy, a severe congenital physical disability, and is a disability rights activist. She has worked closely with Justin Dart and others in the independent living movement. She has been honored as a “Disability Patriot” by the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference (IDRAC)
November 18 & 19, 2016
The Sojourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability, Second Life®

IDRAC is an annual professional conference which celebrates progress and the future of the disability rights movement in the United States and across the world. It is free and open to the public, hosted by Virtual Ability in Second Life®. A full schedule of the conference presentations will be released when it is finalised.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

IDRAC 2016 Speaker Spotlight: DPCMA

Maggie Sheets presents Friday, November 18th, 2-3pm SLT/US Pacific, at Virtual Ability's International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference.

Maggie Sheets, Research Assistant and Healthcare Advocate with the Disability Policy Consortium of Massachusetts (DPCMA) will present “The Disability Policy Consortium’s Second Life project” on Friday, November 18, at 2pm in Virtual Ability’s Sojourner Auditorium. Her presentation is part of the 2016 International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference. Her avatar's name is MaggieDPCMA.

This presentation will give a brief background on the history and activities of the Disability Policy Consortium (DPC) along with Maggie’s work with the organization. An introduction will be given regarding the DPC’s plans for a project in Second Life. This project will involve women ages 21-40 who have disabilities in a discussion group to talk about dating, relationships, sex, reproductive health, and any other topics of interest to the group. The goal of this group in Second Life is to give these women a space to discuss these issues freely with each other.

Maggie has worked at the Disability Policy Consortium in Malden (Massachusetts, US) since July of 2014. Most recently, Maggie has conducted research and has written four issue briefs on topics of concern to people with disabilities. These include: access to SNAP benefits, access to affordable housing, domestic abuse faced by people with disabilities, and issues people with disabilities who age-out of the educational system at age 22 confront. She has also been providing technical support to a research team examining the healthcare experiences of One Care (health insurance program) enrollees. She is also creating a resource guide with contacts and information to help people with disabilities who are experiencing violence.

In the past, Maggie managed all logistics for five discussion groups with MassHealth enrollees to learn more about their healthcare experiences. Results from a discussion group involving homeless individuals with disabilities will be submitted for publication in the Disability and Health Journal. She also conducted outreach to college students with disabilities to encourage them to become more involved in disability advocacy.

Prior to working with the Disability Policy Consortium, Maggie worked as a Program Associate with Community Catalyst providing technical assistance to a research team examining conflict of interest issues in medical education. Maggie holds a Master’s Degree in Health Communication from a program from Emerson College in collaboration with Tufts University School of Medicine. Her personal motto is: Everything will be all right in the end and if it is not all right it is not yet the end.

International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference (IDRAC)
November 18 & 19, 2016
The Sojourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability, Second Life®

IDRAC is an annual professional conference which celebrates progress and the future of the disability rights movement in the United States and across the world. It is free and open to the public, hosted by Virtual Ability in Second Life®. A full schedule of the conference presentations will be released when it is finalised.