Virtual reality tech gives disabled people ‘life’ experiences

 In news, updates

Charity to use digital tools to help its customers prepare for transition to independent living by giving them foretaste of typical real-life situations like shopping and travelling.

Harrogate-based charity and social enterprise Disability Action Yorkshire is using virtual reality technology to help train and prepare the people it supports to manage a range of everyday challenges. They include shopping in a supermarket and travelling by public transport.

The project, Virtual Independence, is being funded by Harrogate’s Freemasons’ Spa Lodge. The Lodge’s members won a grant of £2,000 from the Provincial Grand Master’s Fund, which has been used for the charity’s Virtual Independence Project to purchase a Garmin VIRB spherical camera, Oculus Go virtual reality headset, and a new laptop computer to edit recorded virtual visits.

“Thanks to The Spa Lodge nominating us for this generous grant, our training sessions for customers will be totally revolutionised,” said Jackie Snape, Chief Executive at Disability Action Yorkshire. “While many are keen to live as independently as possible, the actuality is that some people have had little or no experience of everyday life. We believe that our Virtual Independence Project will change all that.”

Snape added: “Our customers will be able to experience what it is like to travel on a bus independently, travel around a busy shopping centre or supermarket, or prepare and cook a simple meal. The aim is that once people have gained confidence in a virtual setting they will then go to try new experiences in daily life.”

“I’m delighted that we have been able to support Disability Action Yorkshire in kick-starting their Virtual Independence Project,” said Doug Mills, Charity Steward at The Spa Lodge. “With the camera, the charity will now be able to develop a series of 360-degree videos, which will help train and prepare customers keen to explore new experiences. I tried the headset on myself, and I could see a real benefit for those who lack confidence in undertaking simple tasks which, to them, can seem like major obstacles.”

More information on Disability Action Yorkshire’s use of digital technology can be found on its Assistive Technology Blog.

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