An Australian company, House with No Steps, debuts a VR prototype to better train disability support workers on how to handle potentially dangerous situations.
In an industry with insurmountable variables, such as disability support, VR can provide endless opportunities for training.
“Virtual reality is a powerful tool,” says Andrew Richardson, CEO of House with No Steps Group. “We want to harness it to help our support workers learn safely about high-risk workplace situations.”
“Having well-trained, dedicated staff is at the heart of our commitment to provide outstanding support to our customers.”
The VR experience was born from a 2017 Immersive Tech Hackathon for Disability Support and was supported by a $200,000 grant from the National Disability Services (NDS) Innovative Workforce Fund.
House with No Steps, which provides disability services such as respite and employment opportunities for people with disabilities, found incidents of risk for support workers fall into four key categories: environmental, health, behavioral, and emotional.
Potential risks include everything from food poisoning to violence. Currently, there is no effective training protocol that covers all four of these categories. There is no single way to address a risk, forcing support workers to learn the nuances of each person’s identity in order to formulate the correct response to an incident.
VR would allow staffers to practice their responses to a variety of different situations without ever putting a client, or themselves, in harms way.
In one experience tested during the prototype, the user had to respond to three clients in the lounge room of a shared home. One client has a PTSD response triggered from the TV, a second customer reacts by lashing out, and a third customer is running for the front door in a desperate attempt to get away from the situation. This scenario explores what a support worker might do when walking into the room to find these unpredictable scenarios play out.
“People make career changes when they come to our sector,” said a participant who tested the prototype. “So this experience can help people be prepared. You are right there and it gives you a safe place. The benefit to the customer is that they are not placed at risk with an unprepared support worker.”
VR has already proven effective training police officers on how to properly de-escalate potentially dangerous situations, as well as training medical students on how to make life-saving decisions under pressure. Introducing VR to this sector could assist in providing safer working conditions for not employees and their fellow staff.
Image: House with No Steps