Check out this google-translated news article from Germany about Linda Mandlebaum's Wheelies club.
UPDATE: Thanks to the article's author, Tabea Schmitt, we now have a correctly translated copy of the article (printed below with permission).
Second Chance in Second Life
DJ Namav is dancing on the dancefloor. He is wearing a tight, multi-coloured shirt with a batik pattern over his washed-out jeans. He has smooth, black hair and wears a full beard – just like his Alter Ego in "real life“, Nick Dupree. In "real life“, Nick from Mobile, Alabama has muscular dystrophy and relies on a ventilator to breathe. He cannot move his body without help - except for his thumb. His thumb allows his avatar to dance in Second Life now, per mouse click.
Every Sunday, Namav spins his sets at “Wheelies” Club – the first virtual danceclub for people with disabilities. A camel is standing right next to him on the dancefloor. The camel is Namav´s permanent companion. “It collects tips,” he tells me.
Does that work?
“Yes, pretty good.”
Some of the guests at Wheelie´s come in a wheelchair. Others don´t. “It´s a matter of self-image,” says Simon Stevens, who founded the club in 2006. His avatar, Simon Walsh, was one of the first to appear in a wheelchair in Second Life. “I didn´t feel like representing someone other than myself. I have cerebral palsy in both worlds.”
New rules of the game
An avatar in a wheelchair? Simon broke a “taboo” in a world, where many want to be as perfect as possible: slim, sportive, sexy. His avatar took a piece of reality into the net – even if Simon Walsh was “still younger and smoother than Simon Stevens. And he´s not drooling…!”
There are daily events at the Wheelies - parties, discussions, story telling. Simon estimates the community to around 500 members worldwide: “Approximately 50 people come here a week. On big events, we full the sim!”
Second Life Chat:
Second Life chat with Simon Walsh and Namav Abramovic
[20:49] Tabiia: (have) you always used a wheelchair
[20:49] Tabiia: im second life, simon?
[20:49] Simon: yes….
[20:50] Simon, except when I swim
[20:50] Simon, then I (use a life jacket)
[20:49] Simon: namav how do you think about wheel chair?
[20:49] Namav: I sometimes take only one…
[20:51] Simon: (self image) is crucial.
[20:52] Simon: I have a (self image) from the "real" living
[20:52] Simon, that I also show in second life.
[20:52] Tabiia simon, second life is a "game"?
[20:52] Simon: (nnnnnooooooooooooooo)
[20:52] Simon: SECOND LIFE IS NOT A GAME.
[20:53] Tabiia: second life, you can define for me?
[20:53] Simon: it is a "complex phone call"
[20:53] Simon: a new form of media
[20:54] Simon, a social network.
[20:54] Simon: we are all "real" here
[20:54] Simon: (except) the kamel….
“Real life” strikes back
Simon put a lot of money into his virtual venue. The plot, the club, the DJs and live performers: everything costs money in Second Life, too. The club had to move to a new venue in March 2008 and is now enthroned in a virtual sky. This sky is owned by Polgara Paine.
In “real life”, Polgara Paine is called Lind H. Mandlebaum. She is an associate professor at Bowling Green State University where she teaches Special Education. “The Wheelies brings people together who need each other. It provides a social network for people with and without disbility. I won´t allow it to disappear.”