Ep 226 – Creating VR Workplace Training Programs for People with Disabilities

One of my favorite emerging trends right now is the topic of virtual reality and it’s application and use for the workplace specifically in the areas of employee training, development and learning. This year Walmart is expected to train more than 1 million employees using virtual reality. In the virtual world, cashiers are taught to show greater empathy, mechanics learn to repair planes and retail workers experience how to deal with armed robbery. But VR isn’t just limited to employee training, there is so much potential in the areas of skill development. I wanted to highlight how VR is being used in this area specifically in providing job training and skill development for people with disabilities. This podcast is sponsored by WorkMarket, an ADP Company

 

Episode 226: Creating VR Workplace Training Programs for People with Disabilities

 

This episode of the Workology Podcast is part of our Future of Work series powered by PEAT, the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology. In honor of the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act this July, we’re investigating what the next 30 years will look like for people with disabilities at work, and the potential of emerging technologies to make workplaces more inclusive and accessible. Today, I’m joined by Chris Baumgart and Meagan Little. Chris is an Assistive Technology Specialist. Chris has worked in the community for people with disabilities for over 14 years. 

Chris Baumgart has been working to provide services for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities with Imagine! since 2006.  While working as a DSP, and later in management, Chris established himself as an innovator for developing age-appropriate content for adults using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC, specifically speech generating)  Devices before transitioning into the role of Assistive Technology Specialist in 2011.  Since then, he has continued to work to provide Assistive Technology Solutions that allow people increased independence and agency throughout multiple environments in their daily lives.  Specifically, he focuses on providing people the tools they need in their homes, at Day Programs, or in their vocational environments. 

Meagan Little has been working to provide services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities with Imagine! since 2014. In this time Meagan established herself as an innovator for developing adaptive equipment for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is now the Assistive Technology Program Supervisor for Imagine! and leads a team of assistive technology instructors at Imagine! Adult community and Employment services. 

Meagan Little is the Assistive Technology Program Supervisor for Imagine! Meagan has been working for Imagine for 5 years.

 

A Virtual Reality Primer and How It Changes Learning and Skill Development 

 

Meagan and Chris walk us through what tools and tech they use when it comes to virtual reality. They use Oculus which is a VR headset designed by Facebook. They share with us how VR training programs are helping provide skills training for people with disabilities in Colorado in the hospitality and restaurant industries. VR offers a great deal of possibilities in the for digital skill building for everyone including with disabilities, but it is not without its challenges. Meagan describes in the podcast how learning can be gamed where individuals focus on completing the lesson instead of focusing on the learning and application of the new skill or ability. This is something really important to talk about especially when it comes to digital learning including VR. As we are working more remotely and learning is happening online and in virtual reality, trainers and developers must be prepared to check in with students on regular intervals to ensure they are learning the materials and information instead of just completing the game or going through the motions. This is one of the reasons I love VR because it is immersive and offers you the ability to train in a virtual simulation where feel as though you are physically doing the task or skill versus simply reading, listening, or watching someone else talk about the new skill or ability. 

 

Why Job and Skill Building Helps 

 

As the world shifts and changes, our own skills, abilities, and tools must change too. We have to be flexible and adaptable to serve our customers and clients as the economy and business shifts. I’ve following how virtual reality can help employers and workplaces. Skill building is one of the most powerful ways that VR can help employers as our businesses ebb and flow. With Imagine’s VR job training program, they are serving two important areas 1) helping people with disabilities find employment with amazing employers and 2) providing people with disabilities customized and real-time job and skill training. This skill training serves a third purposes which is exposing employees to technology and its purposes in different ways beyond the traditional one on one training approach and group training facilitation. This allows for more flexible training and development opportunities for everyone. One of the challenges for employers that Meaghan and Chris mention is the high cost for VR training for employers. We are still in the early stages of use, development, and adoption, however, if more companies work in partnership with organizations like Imagine, these efforts can grow and scale more quickly to help companies beyond Colorado and the hospitality industry providing job training programs for all types of workers including those with disabilities.

Conclusion

 

I love the work that Imagine is doing and how we can leverage VR tech to provide current and future employees with new skills and provide our businesses with new talent pools to tap into as our businesses and the economy shifts and changes. The potential for virtual reality is limited only to our imagination and ability to step outside of normal job training and skill training programs that we are familiar with and look at opportunities like the one that VR provides and with Imagine. 

The future of work series in partnership with PEAT is one of my favorites. Thank you to PEAT as well as our podcast sponsor WorkMarket, an ADP Company.

Connect with Chris Baumgart on LinkedIn

 

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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