VR Helping People with Intellectual Disability Get Behind the Wheel
14 September 2018 at 5:14 pm
A disability support service is using the latest in virtual reality technology to teach people with intellectual disability the skills to drive a car.
The Endeavour Foundation recently launched 15 virtual reality (VR) training programs using the Oculus Rift Headset, assisting people with intellectual disability to learn everything from road safety, to using an ATM, and even barista training.
Endeavour Foundation implementation specialist, Stewart Koplick, told Pro Bono News they were now taking it to the next level, using the same technology to help people learn to drive.
Koplick said similarly to their other programs, they had mapped streets and roads their customers would use and see everyday, making it easier to apply their skills in the real world.
“In the program, you pull out of the driveway, and then along the main road near one of our offices, and then into a McDonalds… which replicates that particular drive in real life,” Koplick said.
He said the programs had design input from their customers to make it as useful for them as possible, and used interactive elements, alongside the headset, to make it feel like the real deal.
“We’ve got the pedals that go with the steering wheel to make it feel really real,” he said.
A spokesperson from the Endeavour Foundation said it was important this next step was taken for a person with intellectual disability’s independence, and was something that “regularly” came up in their customers’ NDIS plans.
“Independence without a car in Australia – especially in country towns – is all but impossible,” they said.
“This is something that a lot of people with intellectual disability – as well as their families and support workers – believe is impossible to achieve.”
Their current VR modules have been received positively by customers, especially younger people as it was fun and interactive, like a video game.
For customer Michael Hancock, who would like to one day work in a cafe, skills such as taking customers orders and making coffee were challenging because of his intellectual disability.
Hancock was able to use the VR program to practice the skills in a safe environment, and build up the abilities and the confidence needed to enter the workforce.
Dale Harvey, a customer of the Foundation’s Townsville Learning service, also said the skills he had learnt through the program had helped him become more independent.
“I’m learning how to be smart with money and I’m learning how to cook,” Harvey said.
“I thought the train VR program was the most helpful because it showed you how to get a ticket and that you had to wait for the train.”
Koplick said they had been “fortunate” with government and especially corporate funding, and he hoped the success of the program would help develop those partnerships.
He said he wasn’t able to give a “concrete” date on when the new driving program would be released, as there were some “tweaks” such as the left and right indicator tool.
“It’s been prototyped and tested, but it’s not quite ready for the roll out,” he said.
“Tentatively, I’d say it should be ready for release at the end of this year.”