As we mark World Autism Acceptance Week (28 March – 3 April), we are delighted to celebrate the partnership we’ve been building with 3DNovations. The Scottish startup, based in Perthshire brings more than a decade of inclusive research, development, and collaboration with and for autistic people.
“The use of technology to create a digital bridge is enabling people with autism to reach new potentials, and create deeper connections in their communities,” said Eilidh Hodgson, Executive Director at 3DNovations.
“In partnering with Birnam Arts, we are delivering a 3D replica of the Birnam Arts centre. The 3D environment will act as a digital extension of the existing building, offering a virtual environment where autistic and non-autistic people can get familiar with the space prior to physically attending an event there. Or it can substitute physical attendance entirely for those where participation isn’t possible.
“Increasing accessibility to the autistic community through a virtual world empowers them to participate in events, workshops and exhibitions which would otherwise be unavailable to them.”
Virtual environments offer a sense of flexibility unrivaled by a real-world counterpart. Spaces can be designed to suit the needs of individuals, and with multiple options for communication, a 3D space can be more engaging, comfortable, and advantageous for many members of the autistic community.
Making every adjustment and adaptation necessary for an individual to thrive in a real-world environment can be unachievable – no two autistic people are the same and unique accommodations may be required. A virtual world removes many of these barriers to inclusion, offering customisation to create an experience that meets the needs of the individual.
Society’s understanding of neurodiversity and mental health has progressed greatly in recent years with services, support and adjustments being de-stigmatised and more accessible than ever – empowering individuals to succeed in spite of their differences. However, recent technological developments are offering a more inclusive way to offer adaptations that suit the needs of individuals, that is, the continued development of virtual environments.
“This digital bridge we’ve created – and the ones to come – will help autistic people fulfil their potential,” said Nicola Herbertson, non-executive Director at 3DNovations.
“Inclusion in the arts is a fundamental aspect of being human and art connects communities. This project – creating what we hope to be the first of many digital bridges – is giving a voice to many autistic people. It has already created work experience and paid work experience for young unemployed autistic people in the area.”
World Autism Acceptance Day was first held in 2008, launched by the United Nations. In the UK, World Autism Acceptance Week is an annual programme of activities led by charities like Scottish Autism and the National Autism Society and includes World Autism Awareness Day. In some countries, the month of April is now dedicated to raising awareness, showcasing fundraising acitivites, and education of autistic adversity and achievements.
“Our partnership with 3DNovations offers Birnam Arts a creative and innovative way to work with members in our community and we’ll continue to look at ways to develop ideas for future programming,” said Birnam Arts General Manager, James Irvine.
“A virtual Birnam Arts Centre offers a great way for young people in general and the autistic community in particular to engage and encourages new ways for people to participate and attend events at Birnam Arts in the future.”