Using Immersive Technologies to deliver accessibility and drive ​understanding

We would like to congratulate the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) and Athabasca University (AU) on announcing their partnership to offer the first of its kind online RHFAC Accessibility Assessor training course.

At Onlea we are excited to be a part of developing this ground breaking online course using Immersive Technologies. Our team’s vision for developing learner-centric and engaging online courses, has been front of mind during the development of this learning experience.

The online version of RHFAC Accessibility Assessor training has been designed to deliver an experience on-par to that provided at bricks-and-mortar institutions across the country. Its digital footprint will allow this training to reach as many learners as possible, including learners with disabilities and learners in remote locations that would benefit from the flexibility provided by an online course.

In addition to increased accessibility, RHF presented two additional components of the training to AU and Onlea as the fundamental pieces in making this training available online: the in-person course starts with a simulation where participants experience the built environment from the perspective of people with varying disabilities. Learners are given field exercises where they must assess and rate real-world environments based on their accessibility, learning to identify and propose solutions.

The team at RHF expressed the need to preserve the course’s accessibility and build understanding of all types of experiences users of the built environment face.

At Onlea, we never shy away from big challenges, so we eagerly took on this opportunity. From AU’s vision for the course, we determined that a virtual reality (VR) immersive simulation would be the most effective way to deliver a true user experience to learners. The first step for us was to determine the best way to engineer the response we wanted to achieve. We researched VR training tools, entertainment experiences, experimental art pieces, and video games for inspiration. In the end we determined that an immersive 360 video, supported by a strong narrative and showcased through VR, would be the best way to achieve the goals RHF and AU had set out for the online course. In order to achieve maximum accessibility, mobile-based VR platforms were chosen as the delivery mechanism.


Mobile-based VR platforms will enable a better understanding of the accessibility challenges faced by people with disabilities, and are accessible to anyone who has access to a mobile phone, with or without a VR headset. Maximum accessibility paired with a visceral cinematic VR experience will help learners get a sense of how people of all abilities navigate the built environment.

For the virtual field work simulation, we are employing the type of 3D laser scanning that’s common in real estate to create a virtual floor plan for learners called a “dollhouse”. This 3D rendering will be manipulatable by learners on their computer and will have accurately scaled dimensions down to the millimetre. This will allow learners to virtually inspect various spaces for their accessibility, apply a rating and check their own work against that of expert inspectors before they even set foot in the field.


The new online course offered through Athabasca University will be available for the first-time during fall 2019, and at Onlea we are honoured to support the vision set forth by RHF and AU for this immersive learning experience.

Understanding follows empathy, and both help us in creating a world without barriers. Through the use of state-of-the-art technology, we are developing online RHFAC Accessibility Assessor training that supports the vision that all of our public spaces are universally accessible, which in turn unleashes our collective economic and social power, and creates a Canada we can all be proud of.

About Onlea:
Onlea is a Canadian eLearning studio located in Edmonton, AB. Our mission is to produce mindful online learning and our goal is to advance quality online learning experiences around the world by crafting interactive products that promote student engagement and retention. We produce flexible, mobile-friendly, interactive learning courses, educational experiences, and assessment solutions. We are a team driven by a passion for building the next generation of online learning products.

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