Digital partnership turning the virtual into reality

A partnership between Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and disability services provider, Endeavour Foundation, is taking virtual reality out of the gaming sector and into the real world of disability.

The project, part funded via a grant from Endeavour Foundation’s Endowment Challenge Fund, will seek to use digital technology to increase independence and capability for people with an intellectual disability.

Endeavour Foundation CEO, Andrew Donne, said that the sector must capitalise upon the momentum generated by the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

“People with an intellectual disability – despite the best efforts of their families - have too often been relegated to the sidelines of our communities. We’re now in the midst of an incredible change, but to succeed it has to extend beyond systems and into society. The NDIS must not be the crest of the wave.

“We’re delighted that, with our partners, QUT, we’re on the front foot in offering meaningful solutions for a technologically savvy generation.”

Lead researcher, Laurianne Sitbon, said that the Virtual Learning Environment enables students to learn about real world situations but within the safety of a virtual world.

“As a technology it’s effective and engaging, but it’s also hugely appealing to young people,” she said.

“In this application, you are participating in a virtual reality scenario which includes using public transport to travel across Brisbane and visit a café. The activity, which acts like a video game, teaches important life skills – buying and operating a travel card, getting on and off transport, ordering food, using money and interacting with people.

“This grant will enable us to take the process a step further and use new 360 degree video techniques to generate immersive video replays of a variety of scenarios in public spaces.

“To date these skills have been taught by support staff in the real situation – a costly and time-consuming operation – so we’re focused on finding the best possible techniques. We will provide support organizations and families with guidelines on how to decide which settings to consider for their individual needs, and clear instructions to create their own videos.

“This technology is all about flexibility, responsiveness and helping people with a disability achieve as much independence as possible.”

This year The Endowment Challenge Fund also gave an award of over $4,000 to a higher degree student and made a total of over $25,000 available to non-profit organisations.

The Endeavour Foundation Endowment Challenge Fund is a public benevolent institution that seeks to benefit the wider Australian disability sector as a whole, with an emphasis on people with an intellectual disability.

It is a capital-preserved fund, with donations invested and interest earned used to support Endowment Challenge Fund annual grants.