Autism Journal Club

Dynamic Interactive Navigation for Familiarisation and Desensitisation

Many individuals have extreme difficulties with heightened noise and/or crowded situations within environments, and these sensory cues stressors can act as barriers, stopping them doing what most may think are everyday activities. Autism is no exception to this. When we venture into new or unfamiliar environments, it can be a stressful experience for most of us. The impact for individuals living with acute sensory hypersensitivity, mental health conditions and heightened anxiety issues, is they can be placed at an unfair disadvantage compared to their peers in society. With the support of The European Social Fund and The Scottish Government’s Social Innovation Fund, Friendly Access, a social firm on a mission to make Scotland a more accessible and inclusive place for those living with hidden disabilities and conditions, the School of Simulation and Visualisation at the Glasgow School of Art and the tech startup Crag3D, have developed a Virtual Reality app to help people with hidden disability to overcome their barriers towards a more independent life. By harnessing affordable Virtual Reality for Android mobile devices and gradual sensory exposure approaches, we have co-created a series of immersive and interactive experiences in digital reconstructions of busy spaces such as the Aberdeen International Airport (see figures below), to familiarise and desensitize individuals with hidden disabilities to environmental stressors typically found in airports.