Using Virtual Reality for Accessibility For Those With Disabilities | ARKcrystals.com – ARK Crystal

Using Virtual Reality for Accessibility For Those With Disabilities

This interview is part of the ARK Crystal Wellness Week Series from February 2022. During the Wellness Week Series in held every February and Late Summer ARK Crystal brings together thought leaders and inspirational wellness speakers to share their knowledge and experience. 

Today's speaker is Steven McNellie, the founder of the Oculus immersive yoga app yogistream.tv. Throughout his career and personal life, Steve has crafted technology with and for those with disabilities, including his own yoga app and work with Paralympians. 

In our interview, we discuss the opportunities that technology offers to everyone and how communication is always the key. 

 Steve McNellie with Yogistream.tv

TECHNOLOGY AND DISABILITIES

When you hear Steve's history of living with family and friends with disabilities you understand his desire to make his own work as "user friendly" as possible.

"My experience with disabilities goes way back, you know, I have multiple people with different disabilities and abilities in my family. And I've also seen the amazing things that people want to do. And I want to empower people to achieve the things they want, achieve and do the things they want to do."

Steve sees technology as "the great equalizer".  And while in this physical world we all run into limits, the new technological world is lifting limits for all of us. Videos have closed captioning, cursors used to explore websites can be controlled via voice, and in virtual reality, we can visit anywhere in the world.

 Seated Yoga Yogistream.tv

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

When working on any project, communication with your target audience is key. Don't ever assume that you have all of the answers.  Go straight to the people that will be using your product or service and ask them about it.

While working on one of the latest seated yoga videos, Steven thought he had the description of it written out perfectly.  "Accessible Seated Yoga for All".  But is it?  Is it REALLY accessible to EVERYONE?  After running the yoga session past a friend they said to change the title. "Why don't you just call it what it is? Seated Yoga At Sunrise". They suggested letting people decide for themselves it is something they can do, but having the term "seated yoga" was still helpful.

While no one likes being told what they are doing isn't great, Steve explains that feedback is necessary.

We need to keep these steps in mind if we're going to improve -

  • Ask for help
  • Get Feedback
  • Take the criticism as a chance to get better

After taking his friend's advice about the title of the yoga session, it is now their top-performing session in their lineup!

 Oculus Yoga Yogistream.tv

GETTING THERE IN STYLE

 When it came to developing content for his yoga app, Steven could have made the choice to have an instructor in a chair in a living room.  But that's not the way Steven does things. 

For all of the sessions, Steven takes you on a trip to some of the most gorgeous locations, that most people have never seen.  And with the shut-down in the past two years, he saw this as an opportunity.

We're working from home, and we have these brief moments in our day, where it might be nice to be transported... and I was having all these amazing experiences out in Hawaii, out in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. And I thought it would be great to bring as many people into these spaces as possible, you know, these remote places that everyday people wouldn't necessarily have the opportunity to get to. So I wanted to bring as many people as possible....

I'm hoping this can feed the soul... What I'm hoping online VR yoga can be is not just, "Can we do the pose?", but "Does it feel good? Does it feed something inside of you?"

Want to hear more from Steve McNellie? Watch our entire ARK Crystal Wellness Week interview on Accessibility, Technology, & Virtual Reality.