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Accidentally Accessible

Virtual Reality Is Creating a World of Opportunities

Once the stuff of science fiction movies and stories, VR is rapidly morphing into the ultimate the multitool.
In the gaming world, it's a staple, the list of games that use VR is long and growing. In the medical arena, VR is a teaching tool, bringing the body and procedures to life in minute detail, allowing doctors and other practitioners to learn (and make mistakes) while never harming an actual patient. For disabled and injured people, the technology offers almost unlimited opportunities and experiences.

Rehabilitation: Swiss researchers working with stroke victims are seeing potential in relearning nerve pathways, leading to relearning to walk or use their hands. They're using virtual reality to "trick" the brain into reusing or rerouting around neural pathways that were affected by disease or injury. By mapping the virtual reality gear to display a hand working in response to commands received, the brain will slowly process and correct the damage.

Research has shown that people with autism and learning disabilities have been able to enjoy participating in the secure and controlled environment created by VR that can remove distractions, reduce stimulation and adapt to the individuals needs and learning styles.

Studies have begun to show promise to those dealing with various types of fears, phobias and traumatic experiences, offering new forms of treatment helping someone to work through their experiences knowing they're safe and at no further risk of danger, allowing them to process their memories and enabling the healing process.

Another benefit is exciting and safe experiences. Want to tour the Grand Canyon or surf? From the safety and comfort of your living room or wheelchair? You can do that. Many landmarks have VR tours available online, so you can jump out of an airplane, walk a tightrope or just take a tour of an area, which can also be helpful when planning a trip so you can plan your accessible route or choose places to stay or visit.

You could even go as far as setting up your own virtual reality world and interacting with others. Companies like Second Life provide the software and online resources to make that happen.

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