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A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities for example household tasks, socialising or managing money, which affects someone for their whole life. People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complex information and interact with others.
Loneliness is a substantial problem amongst people with a learning disability. Gilmore& Cuskelly(2014) found up to 50% of people with a learning disability experience chronic loneliness, compared to around 15-30% of people in the general population. Having an active social life can help people with a learning disability to feel happier, included and valued (Chadwick et-al. 2014; Mason et-al. 2013), 33% of children with a learning disability say they find it harder than average to make friends in comparison to 9% of other children (Emerson&Hatton,2007).
Everyday activities that are taken for granted by most people can present many barriers to individuals with a learning disability. A change in routine or attempting new activities can be extremely overwhelming to some individuals with a learning disability. They may need support, both in the activity and in building their confidence and capacity. Providing appropriate support is regrettably not always feasible due to a lack of resources. If an individual has a negative experience (for example travelling on a bus) trying a new activity can be extremely traumatizing to the point they may never try it again. This can put an individual at risk of becoming further isolated and facing chronic loneliness.
Older people with a learning disability experience many health and social inequalities which make it particularly difficult for them to participate in community life. Reduced social networks put them at greater risk of social isolation, exclusion, depression and ill-health.
Mencap aims to tackle this serious issue by ensuring more people with a learning disability (regardless of age) are better connected to their communities, which will in turn increase their confidence and reduce social isolation and loneliness.
Mencap have developed a bespoke Virtual reality (VR) tool that replicate a real environment (or create an imaginary setting), and simulate the user’s physical presence in this environment. Through the project Mencap wants to explore how VR technology can be used to support the facilitation of Day Opportunities by replicating the environment, activity and processes involved. Individuals involved will be able to experience a particular scenario before taking part in it.
In its first stage the project aims to cover 5 scenes, but eventually it is hoped this can be expanded to provide a wide library of scenarios. Typical situations to be captured will include day to day activities like catching a bus, being in a work environment, accessing services or activities like buying a coffee.
The solutiuon can be viewed at The World Around Us