In term four the YWCA Canberra Clubhouse is hosting a program called What’s Your Reality – a journey through virtual worlds.
YWCA Canberra Clubhouse facilitated the ‘What’s Your Reality’ program collaboratively with ACT Parks and Conservation, Calwell High School and Parallel Parks. ACT Parks and Conservation, Calwell High School and Parallel Parks. The mission was to harness the power of virtual reality (VR) to make Canberra’s natural parks and reserves accessible to people with a restrictive disability. The Clubhouse engaged ten students in year nine at Calwell High School to deliver this program to represent Canberra youth in the Parallel Parks program.
Parallel Parks is a bold initiative from the National Disability Insurance Scheme Provider New Horizons. The health benefits of adventure and being connected to nature are undisputed. Sadly, accessing Canberra’s nature-based experiences isn’t possible for everyone, especially those with a physically restrictive disability. This initiative was the first of its kind in Australia, and the members participating in the What’s Your Reality program created virtual reality content that was designed specifically for young people with a disability.
This program was a very collaborative program that required the members to work in small groups to plan. In the planning, members brainstormed the many activities available in Canberra Nature Parks, Mulligans Flat, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Namadgi National Park and chose fun and exciting activities that they would want to experience if they themselves had a physically restrictive disability. Each group was assigned an activity and location, and they assessed the different risks involved in the activities. This required them to consider numerous elements of risks, how they would address them, and also compile them into a document. After this process, members worked together to storyboarded the filming. Members needed to think about the different camera shots they wanted to capture, and what mood and storyline the film would be. Members did this all independently and worked in small groups to think creatively and problem solve. By the end of 2018, members with muscular dystrophy connected with New Horizons explored Canberra’s nature-based experiences through the eyes of participating students!
This is just the beginning for Parallel Parks, and the impact that ‘What’s Your Reality’ will have on members throughout Australia who have a desire, but not the ability to get out and have fun in the bush. ACT Parks and Conservation Service is already in discussions with disability organisations in the ACT exploring opportunities to share these experiences. This is the first time in Australia that school age students have been involved in the production of virtual reality content for the disability sector and was an incredible program to involve Clubhouse members in a meaningful project that was focussed on members’ interests, included innovative technology, involved them in their local environment and community, and to participate in a national program with unprecedented outcomes for those living with a disability.
The What’s Your Reality program won the Innovation in Service Delivery Award at The Youth Coalition of the ACT YOGIE Youth Work Awards 2018. This award recognises an organisation, service, program or project that has demonstrated exceptional “thinking outside the square” to create beneficial change for members. This program has also won the ‘Innovation Award’ at the Volunteering and Contact ACT 28th annual 2019 Volunteering Awards for the Canberra region.