A Diary Study in Social Virtual Reality: Impact of Avatars with Disability Signifiers on the Social Experiences of People with Disabilities

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People with disabilities (PWD) have shown a growing presence in the emerging social virtual reality (VR). To support disability representation, some social VR platforms start to involve disability features in avatar design. However, it is unclear how disability disclosure via avatars (and the way to present it)would afect PWD’s social experiences and interaction dynamics with others. To fll this gap, we conducted a diary study with 10 PWD who freely explored VRChat—a popular commercial social VR platform—for two weeks, comparing their experiences between using regular avatars and avatars with disability signifers (i.e., avatar features that indicate the user’s disability in real life). We found that PWD preferred using avatars with disability signifers and wanted to further enhance their aesthetics and interactivity. However, such avatars also caused embodied, explicit harassment targeting PWD. We revealed the unique factors that led to such harassment and derived design implications and protection mechanisms to inspire more safe and inclusive social VR.