Clark Germann, Jane Kaufman Broida, Peggy O'Neill-Jones Metropolitan State College of Denver Denver, Colorado, USA
One in seven Americans, or 35 million individuals, have a disability severe enough to interfere with life's day-to-day activities ( Scherer, 1996, p. 4). Providing avenues for these individuals to maximize their full inclusion and integration into varied aspects of community life is essential. Researchers at Metropolitan State College of Denver (MSCD) are using Virtual Reality (VR) technology to assist persons with disabilities transition from clinical therapy into the community.
A number of factors have influenced the growing need for integration of individuals into society. With advanced medical care available, individuals with multiple and severe injuries are surviving traumatic accidents. Additionally, due to medical advances, individuals with chronic and progressive illness are living longer and demanding the services and resources to enhance their quality of life.
The national trend of hospital-based services toward managed care has also impacted the need for inclusive services. In rehabilitation, this managed care includes regulation and monitoring of patient lengths of stay and generally, shorter lengths of stay. As people transition back to the community in shorter amounts of time, providing the resources for their full inclusion and integration into society becomes paramount.
Virtual reality literature discusses many benefits for patients. Rothbaum, Hodges and Kooper ( 1997) reduced the fear of heights in patients after virtual reality exposure therapy. Wilson, Foremen and Stanton ( 1997) demonstrated that spatial information acquired by physically disabled children from