Most of us working in local government are probably familiar with the ADA Best Practices Toolkit for State and Local Government published online by the U.S. Department of Justice at http://www.ada.gov/pcatoolkit/toolkitmain.htm. The document is well-written and helpful in providing guidance in understanding and complying with regulations related to accessibility. But like most government documents, it is offered in a traditional, conservative format. One of my goals over the years has been to transform a document like the ADA Toolkit into a three dimensional experience. Not only does a 3D space offer a much more engaging “read,” but it can also increase retention of the material. So over the last year or so, I worked on building a 3D version of this toolkit. You can see a quick tour of the result of this work in the video below.
If you are interested in checking out the toolkit, there are several options for doing so. For those of you familiar with virtual environments, you can visit http://www.publicworksgroup.com/ada to learn where I have set up the hosting of the toolkit. One additional grid not yet listed on that site is the MOSES grid which is owned and operated by the U.S. Army. If you are already a member of MOSES, you can find the toolkit there by searching on the map for munigov. Then when the map locates that area, you can teleport over. (I will eventually add the MOSES setup as an option on the website, but because the website and toolkit were entered in the FVWC before I could set the toolkit up on MOSES, I was not sure I could alter the website until after the contest.)
If you want to check out the toolkit, but have never yet entered a virtual environment where you are represented by an avatar, rest assured this will be one of the easiest and least threatening places to visit. And because many people entering a virtual space for the first time are worried about interacting with others, I have set it all up so that you can run and visit the toolkit on your own computer. Just download and unzip the following file and follow the directions on the Readme file (this is a very large download – about 560 MB zipped and just over 1 GB unzipped):
By visiting the toolkit with this method, there will be no else who can enter the toolkit other than you. You can also download and unzip the files onto a USB drive so that you can use them on any computer.
For those of you interested in my choices of design, I realize I could have chosen many different themes and visualizations. But for this particular document, I decided to remain somewhat conservative and traditional in my 3D representation. This is because people in my field of engineering and public works and even local government are still not yet heavily involved in the use of virtual worlds or 3D technology. So most people in these fields who visit the 3D ADA Toolkit could be entering a virtual environment for the first time. And based on feedback I received over the years from colleagues who attempted to check out virtual environments, I believe that they will have the most positive and successful experience if the virtual space is at least somewhat familiar. This is also the reason that I have set up the environment in several different locations. Those interested in checking out the toolkit can do so not only by visiting it in existing virtual worlds like OSGrid and MOSES, but also on the privacy of their own computer where they can focus on the toolkit and not have to worry about interacting with others.
I’d like to continue to explore transforming government documents into 3D learning environments and sharing them with other government professionals. And over time, as people become more familiar with the learning techniques offered by virtual settings, I would expect to eventually expand the visualizations to become more interesting and non-traditional with even more tools for engagement. Eventually I would also like to try out this transformation using other software such as Unity3D. In the meantime, if you have a particular document you would be interested in seeing transformed into 3D, or are interested in collaborating on creating one, or have feedback or suggestions for improvement, just send me an email or share your information in the comments below.