Virtual Reality: What it is and the applications for those with disabilities

Virtual Reality: What it is and the applications for those with disabilities


Google Glass, Playstation VR, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR – If you’re not a video gamer chances are those three words mean next to nothing to you. But what are they, what benefit will they potentially have for those with disability and how can they create new opportunities? does a great job of defining the idea of Virtual Reality – “Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment.“


Google Glass – Whilst not entirely VR, Glass is a heads up display that was able to display a mobile phone like menu across your field of vision. The interface is voice activated and allows users to take photographs, call friends, message and use maps. With a lackluster adoption rate this product ultimately failed, however there are revisions coming in the future. So how could this be beneficial to users with disabilities? The applications are endless but an example of the incredible potential of this product was seen recently on  America’s Got Talent:

  • Benjamin Yonattan – A 14 year old dancer with Retinal Dystrophy, meaning his vision will diminish as he grows older. He currently has a 4-degree field of view which he likens to "looking through a straw". By using Google Glass he is able to see the world around him as shapes and colors and makes it easier for him to interact.  


Playstation VR, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR  – These are the next three big heavyweights in the online gaming arena that are due to be released later this year. The units immerse the user into an environment and enable them to interact with and experience any possible landscape that a developer can dream up.

In this video, Playstation VR Worlds unlocks a plethora of opportunities for those with mobility issues. Being able to control your avatar in the virtual world solely by the movements of your head is an incredibly exciting prospect.

For those of us without disabilities, flying through a simulated landscape would be breathtaking. But imagine for a moment someone who was born without the ability to use their legs, experiencing what it would be like to walk, run or swim. Absolutely astounding.

The last shift in gaming as dramatic as this was when Nintendo brought out their WII console. For the first time a whole new user base (the elderly) were able to use and enjoy a system that brought them light hearted user friendly games.

This is the start of a new revolution, where design, functionality and technological advances can create a truly accessible and inclusive gaming landscape for all. Thinking more long term, there are applications that will be created that will benefit those with disabilities that we can't even imagine yet, something to look forward to!