By Barrier Free Japan with extracts from The Tokyo Shimbun
July 13 2021
TOKYO – On July 8, an attempt to use virtual reality (VR) in training for people with developmental or cognitive disabilities to find employment or return to work was held at ‘Work Support Suginami’, an employment transition support office in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward.
Due to their disabilities, some people are unable to communicate with others sufficiently, which is necessary for employment, and through training, they aim to improve their abilities.
However, due to the coronavirus, it is difficult to invite specialized instructors from outside, so the aim is to maintain the quality of the training.
‘Jolly Good’ an IT venture company that develops VR technology to support people with disabilities, provided a training program supervised by a psychiatrist, and three people who use the office on a daily basis took part in the one-hour training.
The program recreated the scene where the participants consulted their superiors and seniors when they were compiling documents in the office, and the images on the VR equipment showed a total of three people, including their superiors and seniors. The participants were exposed to situations that they could imagine in a real workplace, such as asking for advice and being gladly accepted or being refused because they were busy.
After watching the video, the students wrote down who seemed to be the busiest and the reasons why, and learned the necessary communication skills, such as politely expressing gratitude when someone agrees to help, and the importance of looking at the gestures and expressions of others to determine whom to consult.
A woman (28) who has been using the center since last June due to her developmental disability and hopes to work as an office worker said, “The camera work is so realistic that I feel as if I am in the field. I think it will be useful when I go out into the world,” she said.
The training is scheduled to be held once a week for a total of twelve times, and the problems identified through the practice will be verified to improve the quality of the program. In the future, they will consider introducing a program that assumes situations in which many people with developmental disabilities work, such as cleaning and sales.
Yoshiyuki Nagumo, Executive Director and Secretary General of Work Support Suginami, said, “We would like to use VR as a complementary tool to real communication. I hope we can verify the effectiveness and refine it.”
A representative of Jolly Good said, “The big advantage of VR is that you can try again and again even if you make a mistake, which leads to a sense of self-affirmation.”