Virtual Reality app to support hidden disabilities

l-r, Ian Taylor, Crag3D, Dr. Matthieu Poyade Research Fellow and MSc Pathway Leader School of Simulation and Visualisation, The Glasgow School of Art and Glyn Morris from Friendly Access

Moray-based social enterprise, Friendly Access along with SimVis (School of Simulation and Visualisation at The Glasgow School of Art) and Crag3D Ltd have received further funding to support their Virtual Reality app to help people with hidden disabilities.

Glyn Morris, Chief Executive of  Friendly Access said, “Individuals living with hidden disabilities or conditions including hypersensitivity and anxiety are often placed at an unfair disadvantage compared to their peers in society. This can often lead to isolation and poverty.

“We want to help people overcome their fear of certain environments and thanks to increasingly affordable pocket technology, many can now have access to this without even stepping outside of their home.”

Using a VR compatible mobile phone, and a Virtual Reality headset costing as little as £1.99, members of the general public will soon be able to use an app to help prepare for the challenges of visiting stressful places.

The app will create immersive 3D digital versions of real environments from airports, classrooms and places of employment. It will gradually increase stressors helping people to practice overcoming the barriers which these situations often create.

Fraser Bain, Duty Manager at Aberdeen Airport who has been leading the airport’s drive to become a more accessible and inclusive environment, believes the app will be of great benefit to their passengers providing them “with a further means of getting accustomed to the airport environment ahead of a trip.”

Ian Taylor, Crag3D welcomed the support from Aberdeen International Airport and said, “With continued support from Aberdeen International Airport, we are now excited to start developing a scenario for people seeking work.

“Enabling individuals to overcome fears could help them into employment and this will be of great benefit to many. We will also start to investigate educational environments; people need access from the start.”

In this final stage of the Dynamic Interactive Navigation for Familiarisation and Desensitisation project, the team will work alongside people with hidden disabilities and mental health conditions over several months to test the app. Additionally, a number of academics, professionals and service providers including Scottish Autism and the Fragile X Society will help to refine the concept as it evolves.

Fiona Bain, Lead Community Partner, Department of Work and Pensions, “It’s really encouraging to hear about this project and we’re excited about the possibilities of being involved”.

The project received funding from the Scottish Government and European Social Fund support from the Social Innovation Fund.

More information including a demo video can be found via friendlyaccess.org