While XR benefits many industries, education may have more to gain than most. As more purpose-built augmented and virtual reality gear comes out, it becomes increasingly clear how these tools can make schools more accessible.

Many people already recognize how XR improves student outcomes and teacher job satisfaction through immersion. But its benefits don’t stop there. It’s also a game-changing innovation for helping students with disabilities. Here are five ways it could be a transformative tool.

1. Visual Aids

Visual disabilities are one of XR’s most promising applications in handicapped education. Some companies have developed augmented reality (AR) contact lenses providing heads-up displays (HUDs) to address vision impairments. These HUDs can give crucial information or explanations about what’s in front of the user when they can’t see it clearly.

Other AR solutions record what’s in front of them and manipulate the image to enhance contrast, making it easier to see. These XR technologies help students with vision impairments see the world as clearly as their peers. Being able to read the whiteboard or focus on the teacher has a huge impact on learning outcomes.

Vision disabilities are one of the most prevalent disabling conditions in children. Consequently, implementing this technology would be a considerable step forward in education accessibility.

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2. Auditory Support

XR tech can also address students’ auditory disabilities. While many students can’t hear teachers or their classmates well, staffing every classroom with sign language interpreters is difficult. AR glasses could fill that gap by providing real-time subtitles and text descriptions of nearby sounds.

These solutions use the same artificial intelligence (AI) technology that enables real-time captioning for videos or text-to-speech functions. AR then projects these subtitles in front of the viewer.

Some options don’t require smartphone or cloud connectivity either, making them more convenient and reliable. Students can also turn captioning functions on and off if they don’t always need support or need to focus.

3. Tech Education Accessibility

While technology addresses many learning gaps, tech itself can be a challenge for students with some disabilities. Traditional mouse and keyboard controls are difficult or even impossible for some people with physical disabilities to use. That can put them at a serious disadvantage, considering that 70% of businesses are investing more in technology and will require digital skills.

XR helps overcome these obstacles. VR or AR displays can act as screen extensions if students have difficulty focusing or reading a conventional monitor. Voice controls in these virtual displays let users work without using a mouse or keyboard.

The immersive experiences these technologies provide may also make tech education more exciting for kids. As a result, they make it easier to focus and engage in the lesson, ensuring everyone gets the tech skills they need later in life.

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4. Field Trip Accessibility

Technology can also improve learning outcomes by providing entirely new experiences. Immersive virtual reality (VR) field trips take this benefit even further and, more importantly, make field trips themselves more accessible.

Field trips offer far more engagement and excitement than the typical lesson, but some students have physical disabilities that stop them from participating. VR provides an answer by enabling virtual trips. The class can dive into realistic, immersive worlds without leaving the classroom, letting everyone experience it.

Virtual field trips are also safer than their real-world counterparts. That way, students whose disabilities may not make a trip impossible but make it risky can participate more comfortably.

5. Homework Assistance

XR technology can provide assistance outside the classroom, too. The same technology that enables in-class visual and auditory aids can make homework more approachable for students with some conditions.

Dyslexia can make it difficult for students to read, write, and spell. These challenges are particularly noticeable in homework, where children may not have the same support they have in class. AR glasses can help by reading text aloud and transcribing handwriting into more legible text.

Similarly, HUDs may provide some helpful context or tips when students are struggling with a concept or need a reminder. VR can offer immersive out-of-class learning experiences to provide extra support if students need a little more explanation and practice.

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XR Technology Is the Future of Accessible Education

Conventional education leaves many students behind because it can’t account for varying disabilities. XR may not be the entire solution, but it’s a big part of the answer to this issue. As these five use cases show, VR and AR make education more accessible and engaging. When that happens, learning outcomes for all students, regardless of disabilities, can improve.

April Miller is a senior writer at ReHack Magazine and editorial contributor at AR Insider. She specializes in VR/AR, IoT, and business technology. See her work here and follow her @rehackmagazine.

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