Education has been, is and will continue to be an important part of everyday life. For people with disabilities, this everyday life is not without obstacles and in particular, vocational training and integration are often made more difficult due to the physical limitations. According to the Federal Statistical Office, the number of people with disabilities in Germany has increased to around 7.6 million. German citizens are living with a disability and its corresponding consequences.
In its publication “Guidelines for Education Policy”, the German UNESCO Commission formulates with regard to inclusive education systems, that all “[…] People worldwide […] should gain access to quality education. Everyone must be enabled to develop to their potential.”
With technological progress, digitization offers the possibility of breaking down barriers and building a bridge to professional integration, so that everyone, regardless of their impairments, has a chance to develop and use their skills.
In the project “InKraFT – Inclusion in vocational training in the concrete case of automotive mechatronics using Virtual Reality Technology”, physical and cognitive disabilities are to be compensated by the use of a Virtual Reality environment. The aim is to enable disabled people to learn or practice professions such as automotive mechatronics technician or at least parts of the profession or to act as trainers for automotive technology.
With regard to that, a technical learning platform is being developed that uses virtual reality to convey teaching and learning content by digitally recording the real workplace and enriching it with thematically appropriate content. These contents can then be made accessible from any location and enable the inclusion of people with disabilities in three different cases:
- People with a physical disability may not be able to meet the physical requirements for the operative dismantling, repair and assembly of components. As a result, these people have not yet been able to undergo any training in the industrial motor vehicle trade. Employment in a car service company is thus also unlikely, although these people would cognitively be able to meet the requirements. As a result, these people are lost in the labor market (diagnosis back office in authorized workshops, hotline at workshop equipment suppliers, insurance companies, education sector, etc.), even though there is a technological change in automotive technology that prioritizes knowledge work.
- An experienced technician with good diagnostic skills loses his employability in the commercial automotive trade if he can no longer physically meet the requirement (accident, illness, etc.), although his experience would be of the greatest importance for diagnostic processes and his knowledge would be important both within the company and outside the company. For example, this fitter could act as an integration assistant for a cognitively impaired person or could work as a trainer.
- The qualification and also the employment of those who are not cognitively able to understand and diagnose complex automotive technology at first go has currently narrow limits. These people are currently unable to find work, although they would certainly be able to rectify faults and meet the requirements of the company in terms of their skillset.
The project consortium of InKraFT consists of the AWS Institute, the Center for Cognitive Science of the Technical University of Kaiserslautern, the Educational Sciences of the University of Siegen and IMC AG as a joint partner. The vocational training centre of the “Kreishandwerkerschaft Märkischer Kreis e. V.” is the network coordinator; a further 22 associated partners from the fields of education and the motor vehicle industry are also involved in the project.
As a research partner, the AWS Institute has the task of developing a VR environment that enables knowledge to be transferred regardless of location and is adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. For this purpose, on the one hand, real environments must be recorded and transmitted in real time, on the other hand didactically meaningful teaching content must be provided and targeted interaction concepts must be developed.
The InKraFT project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.