Virtual Reality Disability Simulation: A Tool to Reduce Implicit Bias Towards Persons with Disabilities and a Motivation to Create a Virtual Ability Simulation
Disability Simulation (DS) is an approach used to modify attitudes towards people with disabilities (PwD). DS places people without disabilities (PwoD) in situations that are designed for the users to experience conditions associated with a disability. Even though DS is being used to raise awareness, it also endured some criticism for not being effective and inducing negative effects. However, DSs that are subject to criticism did not include virtual reality (VR), which is very effective in creating numerous situations that are not feasible to create otherwise. The intended outcome of a DS is to strengthen people's empathy and positive attitudes towards PwD. My research use DS not only to raise awareness but also to educate PwoD about various disabilities. One of the important outcomes of my research is to reduce implicit bias towards PwD. To measure this objectively, the Implicit Association Test (IAT) is a widely used metric. The IAT measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report. I started with an experimental study to learn whether there is any correlation between information recall (i.e., recall information that was presented in a virtual environment) and participants' sense of presence in VR DS. Positive results from this study lead me to more in-depth investigations using more conditions e.g., a physical wheelchair-based user interface. Because my results suggested that the immersive condition enables more effective learning in DSs, I used the same setup to investigate how implicit bias (i.e., measured via IAT score) differs after going through a VR DS. Next, using a full body tracking system, I investigated how the user's sense of embodiment and the disability of virtual characters in the environment affected implicit bias in VR DS. Finally, I investigated for PwD, how giving the ability to do things in VR can improve their confidence and performance in their physical rehabilitation task.