BY CHIEF STAFF WRITER PAYPABAK WRITER
“Born in 1974, Simon Stevens has cerebral palsy which affects his speech, balance, hand control and (in a positive way) sense of humour. Despite his difficulties and the level of everyday discrimination he faces, Simon has had a vast range of life opportunities and experiences . . .” (from About Simon, please read more of it!) I had the privilege to see Simon Walsh, as Simon Stevens is known in Second Life, in action at the Second Life Community Convention in 2007, where he inspired many people to see what an incredible gift virtual worlds can be to people with severe handicaps. The playing field is certainly leveled for this fellow who invites everyone to celebrate various levels of abilities at his Wheelies 74 Club in SL. Simon is also one of the Elders of SL, having been around since May 2006!
Simon’s busy schedule prevented us from meeting together in SL, but he did provide some answers to my questions on a notecard, so I am going to proceed to present them here and invite you to visit his club and websites listed at the end of this article!
How did you learn about SL and had you been involved in computer games before SL?
I got a email from a colleague which mentioned SL, and I took it from there. I had played The Sims before but nothing like SL.
Is SL part of how you make a living, and if so, how does it fit in?
The aim is to provide a wide range of training services as well as sponsorship on my nightclub. I will have a hotel and cinema.
What was the worst thing that happened to you in SL and what was the best thing?
Worst thing was when I had to let my club go in 2008 after financial difficulties, although now I have reclaimed the club and am currently rebuilding its fan base.
Having visited Wheelies in 2007, I remember you gave away these cool wheelchairs. Do you still do that? (I might have missed them in my recent visit.) Also, I am thinking you probably have the biggest collection of them in SL. How many?
I must have between 20 and 30 chairs, and I still give them away on request.
Are there other organizations in SL that are involved in helping people with disabilities find their way in SL?
They are many organizations now, including Virtual Ability, Virtual Helping Hand, and GimpGirl.
What is on your SL Agenda for 2010?
Developing my new sim, and really making it a central point for a lot of different services. I like wheelies events to be daily and do a schedule on training events on disability and other issues.
What is on your real life agenda for 2010?
All sorts. After a few difficulties few year I am in a good position to develop my business strategy and grow my business. [ He has a good update on activities and plans on this page of his blog. ]
Thanks for taking time to answer my notecards, and bless you, Simon!
NOTE: Here’s a refreshing perspective on the term disability: most of us are “temporarily abled.” The word is one of those necessary evils of shorthand language that can be very hurtful, so be careful not to identify a person by his or her lack of abilities. Instead of “disabled person” or worse “the disabled,” use “person with a disability” or “people with disabilities.” It really does matter.
Visit Inworld: Virtually Stevens Resort
On the Web: Simon’s personal blog
(You need to use the right-hand column of links to find the real story of this remarkable man.)
On the Web: Presentation in February 2010
(Be sure to read the responses of those who attended.)