Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ability Commons proposal - Deadline for voting June 30!

As many already know, the Annenberg School is holding a competition for projects that promote the "common good" in real life and Second Life. The Health Support Coalition has submitted a proposal and is now a semifinalist. In a very exciting turn of events, the top 3 out of the 5 semifinalists will get funding to support their plans - but we need your support now! Please go to and learn more (including our proposal) and then VOTE for us! Please note that the deadline for voting is June 30.

Q: Why do we believe that Ability Commons deserves your support?

A: We believe in the power of peer support, and that those with disabilities and chronic diseases need and deserve a voice in this virtual world. With a vote for the Ability Commons project you are voicing your support for this community.

Q: What will funding pay for?

A: The Annenberg funding will pay for a new island, and for its setup. It will also pay for buildings so that each of the 40 support groups will have a space to meet, host events, and provide information. The Health Support Coalition intends to use 'off the shelf' buildings as much as possible in order to ensure that funds can be used where they are most needed - to support the community. However, we have no intention of compromising on the quality of support we give this amazing, growing community.

Q: What will funding not pay for?

A: None of the funding will be paid out to members of the Health Coalition for time we put into planning or administration. Time spent on this project is donated in full, with the possible exception of land and building design.

Q: What is this 'Health Support Coalition,' anyway?

A: The Health Support Coalition is a community of health support group leaders (more than 40 at present) begun by The Sojourner (sadly missed, every day), Gentle Heron (of Virtual Ability, Inc.) and Carolina Keats (coordinator for Healthinfo Island) in order to support health groups inworld. We created the Coalition to mentor new groups into being, extend our reach much farther as a combined group than we can do as individual groups, and to encourage collaboration for events. Just seeing a list of health support groups doesn't begin to convey the commitment, experience, caring, and knowledge that we know each support group leader brings to their efforts inworld.

Q: We already support health groups - how is this different?

A: For many groups, real life funding ensures that members find both real-life information resources and often, a space for meetings, displays, and events. But for so many others (perhaps half of inworld groups, though it's hard to know exact numbers here), the grassroots, global nature of the health community means that there is no funding unless it comes from members' pockets. SL participants who have disabilities or health conditions have a hard time finding each other, but when they do, the potential benefits of peer support are tremendous. Setting up a space like Ability Commons where collaboration can happen can multiply the benefits and amplify awareness for all SL participants about health conditions.

Q: Why is this proposal a good bet?

A: Those of us proposing this project collectively have demonstrated our commitment over several years wit activities and projects including, but not at all limited to:
  • Healthinfo Island, which exists to support the entire SL community's health questions with valid and current information;
  • The Accessibility Center build, which boosts awareness of disabilities and tools for accessibility;
  • The Dreams community, which has a strong and extensive program of activities for stroke survivors, those who are autistic, and more (much, much more!);
  • Virtual Ability, Inc., supporting the entrance into SL of those with disabilities, and partner with the Alliance Library System in the new Island, Virtual Ability;
  • Virtual Ability Island, which is now taking shape next to Healthinfo Island, our third grant-funded project, intended to provide orientation and training to new residents with disabilities and chronic diseases;
  • Outreach to support groups with information about activities and informational support available;
  • Events, such as the panel discussion on accessibility design in virtual environments, Namav Abramov's talk on grassroots activism for those with disabilities, and the World AIDS Day observation;
  • Support of groups like the AIDS and HIV groups who now have a home on Healthinfo Island;
  • Classes and educational displays on breast cancer, health literacy, AIDS/HIV and sexual health, diabetes, and much more.
Q: What happens after the 3-month grant period?

A: Actually, what happens during that period is more important, because from the start we'll need to actively seek other funding to sustain Ability Commons. Annenberg's objective is to help begin new initiatives, which must then be strengthened with funding from other sources. With a solid record demonstrating our abilities and inworld connections, we're a good bet for granting agencies, and believe our objectives constitute a substantial contribution to the common good.

If you agree, please VOTE now for this worthwhile project.

Carolina Keats
Coordinator, Healthinfo Island
Second Life