Virtual reality is overcoming the anxiety of completing real life tasks within the disability community

For someone with a disability going out alone can be tormenting, especially for the first time. What if there was a less stressful way to practise catching a train into the city? The good news is you can, and without having to leave your house, thanks to virtual reality. Bede Gow is 18 years old and has an intellectual disability, he had never travelled alone on a train before. With the help of virtual reality he now has the tools to build up his confidence before he actually gives the real thing a go. Through Endeavour Foundation Bede was able to practise his skills for real-life situations.  Operations Manager Andrew Chant has trained 20 people how to use this amazing technology as part of a trial project. Andrew says it was not unusual for his clients to get overwhelmed by handling money or catching public transport. “Some people may have issues around social anxiety or they may not function very well in the community with lots of crowds of people around,” Mr Chant said. During the trial, the participants used VR goggles, headphones and a gaming controller to work the virtual reality. If they did something wrong, they could go back to the beginning. Endeavour Foundation was trialling three programs: train safety, pedestrian safety and ATMs and banking. “A lot of the families of the people we support say, ‘I would not allow my son or daughter to use the train by themselves … they simply do not have the capability to do it themselves’,” he said. “One of our young people got themselves in a little bit of trouble recently because they didn’t remember to use their go card so they ended up getting a fine for travelling on the train without it. This gives them the real-life steps to avoid getting into those sorts of troubles. There’s one young lady we work with who had absolutely zero confidence when it came to money,” he said. “She wanted her disability pension paid into her father’s bank account and preferred [him] to completely manage her finances to the point where she wouldn’t even touch cash. We’ve gotten her to a point now where she’s quite comfortable with cash and she’s also talked about the possibility of getting her own bank account in the future.”