Fisher, Easterseals NY, VeRacity VRcade Host Virtual Reality Wellness Day
August 13, 2018
A new program through St. John Fisher College, Easterseals New York, and VeRacity VRcade is using the power of technology to offer sensory experiences to individuals living with disabilities.
The first-ever Virtual Reality Wellness Day, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 22, at VeRacity VRcade (300 Park Point) in Rochester, will provide individuals with autism and other disabilities served by Easterseals NY a chance to use virtual reality to experience activities they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
The idea behind Virtual Reality Wellness Day was born when Dr. Rob Rice, associate professor of mental health counseling in Fisher’s Wegmans School of Nursing, challenged four students in his practicum course to develop a program in conjunction with their field experience at Easterseals NY.
The collaboration with the community agency was made possible through a $1.9 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, which allowed the School to emphasize integrated behavioral and physical health care training. As a result, Rice was able to place four graduate students at Easterseals NY, which is in the process of expanding its integrated care efforts, to gain experience working with people with mental illness or developmental disabilities.
“Easterseals is thrilled to expand our collaboration with St. John Fisher College,” said Lora Winghart, director of clinical and community services at Easterseals. “We have been working with Fisher to place their integrated counselor interns within our Clinic. The goal is to connect the Primary Care and Mental Health services for our participants. This new project is a great next step in our partnership.”
Through the course, Rice encouraged his students to organize and implement a day where people served by Easterseals NY could engage in virtual reality, a tool he has used in his own practice.
The Virtual Reality Wellness Day was an opportunity VeRacity owner Isai Pochtar was happy to support. Opened in early 2018 at RIT’s Park Point, the arcade features six virtual-reality stations in its 1,400 square foot facility, offering a fully immersive experience where virtual-reality (VR) gamers can take a 3D stroll through the streets of Paris, an exhilarating run down a ski slope, or battle UFOs through outer space.
“Originally, the focus of the arcade was to showcase VR and use it for entertainment, but then we noticed a lot of health benefits,” Pochtar explained, noting that stroke victims have used the technology to help rebuild their sensory skills. “There are limitless opportunities with VR, and we see a lot of potential for health care.”
For Rice, the benefits of Virtual Reality Wellness Day are two-fold. Those served by Easterseals NY can experience new activities in a safe environment, and his students can practice their counseling skills as they discuss the experiences with them.
“The day is really about promoting wellness and mental health by providing new experiences and giving participants a chance to process those experiences through sharing,” he said.
Winghart of Easterseals agreed. “Working with Rob and Isai to expand the use of technology in our programs will enhance our services and give the participants we support some amazing experiences,” she said. “Our participants are anxious to attend and are very excited to be part of this project.”