"Since some early human first picked up a stick to use as a cane, persons with disabilities have been at the forefront of technology innovation, so it's natural that they would be doing creative things in virtual worlds too," says UCI anthropology professor Tom Boellstorff, shown with his Second Life avatar.

Steve Zylius / UCI

Fran entered the Phantom of the Opera Masquerade Ball dressed to the nines. Her blue gown swayed with her effortless movements; her necklace glittered when it caught the light. She danced, song after song, never stumbling or faltering in her rhythm. It was a great evening, all occurring in the virtual world Second Life, where Fran often spends time with her friends….