The Role of VR in Supporting Students with Disabilities

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Technological innovation has long taken strides to bring comfort, convenience, and wonder into people’s lives, and none more so than virtual reality (VR). Over the past years, VR technology has gained widespread recognition and adoption, reaching a market value of $17.25 billion in 2020 — a number that is expected to reach $184.66 billion in the next five years.

VR technology combines both hardware (e.g. phones and headsets) and software (e.g. the code that creates a new environment). With VR making rapid advancements in the field of electronics recently, the headsets used have solved many of the PCB layout challenges that have plagued the industry for years, like the lack of features because of how small the circuit board needs to be to fit in the helmet. With smaller yet flexible hardware, VR headsets are able to provide dazzling visual and auditory experiences without sacrificing comfort, especially for children who stand to gain a lot from the technology.

In this article, we will take a look at the ways VR can help students with disabilities during these unprecedented times.

How VR Can Help Students with Disabilities

As the pandemic shut the world down, people found ways to recreate normality and benefit humanity — especially in the field of education. When hospital access was banned for medical students, VR simulated the clinical environment that can be used in lieu of traditional in-hospital training. Although the technology cannot actually replace hands-on learning, still, it prevented interruption in their curriculum, especially in these times of need.

Crucially, the use of VR also allows students in today’s distance learning systems to better retain knowledge. Despite the physical gap, it allows special education teachers to reach and assist their learners in new and exciting ways.

1. Personalized Learning

Through VR, learners can be presented with experiences tailored to their needs, including or excluding certain stimuli depending on the goal of the program. For instance, children with vision problems can benefit from a virtual learning experience that uses auditory and/or tactile cues, enlarging images and using VR screen readers to describe the environment. Also, those on the autistic spectrum can build social skills in a low-pressure environment without outside stimulus and improve their well-being.

2. Communication Through VR

Assistance for the hearing impaired is also made better with VR. Using capture motion technology, these children can communicate even without learning sign languages in other languages, such as Arabic or German. This is done through software that automatically generates a written text into sign language. It can also give an opportunity for the listeners to cultivate two-way communication, breaking language barriers.

3. Skills Training and Improvement

No matter what disabilities these children have, they need an avenue to enhance and improve their skills safely. Life skills, such as crossing the street, visiting the supermarket, using public transportation, and talking to other people, can be simulated without the discomfort or danger of the unknown, fostering independence, boosting confidence, and encouraging a sense of control and mastery. In doing so, these children can earn skills that can be transferred to the real world or improve cognitive function through repetition and training.

Indeed, VR is a promising solution that can cross limitations and borders, catering to people’s needs and opening doors in a way the real world cannot. It is simply no longer the subject of science-fiction works. In the future, VR will become an even greater part of the world, creating transformative and life-changing experiences — especially for those who need it the most.

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