Study Researching Invisible Disability Representation in Social VR Seeking Participants

Cornell University students Lucy Jiang, Ria Gualano, and Kexin Zhang are conducting a research study on invisible disability representation via avatars in social VR. They are looking for folks who identify as having an invisible disability to participate in this study, which consists of an hour-long interview, in exchange for a $20 Amazon gift card. Anyone who is interested can learn more and apply to participate in this study here.

Lucy had reached out to me via the contact form on this website, and I am absolutely thrilled to be able to support this important research by giving them a signal boost. I asked Lucy if she would be willing to record a podcast episode about it, and she graciously agreed to do so! We had a great conversation about the study and why it is so important. You can listen using the embedded player below, or on YouTube, Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

A bit more about the research team:

Ria Gualano

“As someone who manages a chronic illness, I came to Cornell specifically to contribute research that would benefit people who manage invisible disabilities, and this project is a first step in that direction. I feel very fortunate that we could combine my goal of contributing work on invisible disabilities, Kexin’s interest in avatar representation of disability, and Lucy’s diverse background in accessibility research into this project.”

Kexin Zhang

“I am a master student in Information Science at Cornell University. My research interest lies at the intersection of accessibility and VR. I am currently studying disability representation, interaction dynamics, and disability harassment in social VR.

As Lucy mentioned in the podcast, I used to study visible disability representation on avatars (BTW thanks Lucy for the hype!) In that project, I noticed that the (in)visibility of disability could potentially be a significant factor that influenced people’s disclosing decisions and strategies, and we should definitely include different types of invisible disabilities in the research group.

Half + Half and VRChat (certain worlds) are my two favorite social VR apps. I love the cute avatars in Half + Half and magically feel the peace of mind every time after playing it! For VRChat, I like its flexibility and variety in avatars, but I’m also a bit concerned about their proper use, given the massive presence of teenagers in VRChat. Having said that, I believe the metaverse has great potential to be the next generation of social media, making the accessibility, inclusion, and safe use of avatars an even more important research topic to study in future.”

Lucy Jiang

Description: Lucy, a Chinese American woman, holds a two-tiered wedding cake with pastel pink flowers and rose gold detailing.

“I’m a first-year PhD student at Cornell University, advised by Dr. Shiri Azenkot!

(And yes, I made this cake 🍰)

I’m passionate about developing accessible technology, fostering an inclusive community, and harnessing creativity for social good.

My research interests are in accessibility and human-computer interaction.”

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