Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Centered Computing

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Julian Brinkley

Committee Member

Dr. Guo Freeman

Committee Member

Dr. Andrew Robb

Committee Member

Dr. Paige Rodeghero


Virtual reality (VR) has grown significantly since the commercial release of the Oculus Rift in March 2016. This growth accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, revolutionizing how individuals and businesses work, socialize, exercise, and stay entertained. However, commercial VR systems are not designed to be accessible to people with disabilities. While researchers have explored aspects of VR accessibility for people with disabilities, there is minimal research on accessible VR for older adults. Older adults (65+) self-report the highest rate of disabilities which may result in VR accessibility barriers, making this the ideal group to study the accessibility of VR.

This dissertation explores VR hardware and applications for use by older adults. Two preliminary studies were conducted to identify VR accessibility barriers and explore how to increase VR accessibility for older adults. The first study introduced older adults to the Oculus Quest 2 VR system to observe and inquire about their experience using VR technology. The second study explored a reported accessibility barrier from the first study, VR controller complexity, to understand the needs and preferences of older adults for increasing VR accessibility. These findings formed the foundation for participatory design sessions with older adult participants, in which they designed and prototyped accessible VR hardware and applications. These sessions resulted in the development of a head-mounted display strap modification, handheld controller modifications, an on-device accessible user profile application that stores a user’s accessibility needs and preferences, and the implementation of multiple VR application accessibility features. These VR hardware modifications, user profile application, and accessibility features were evaluated for accessibility for older adults through a task-based study. This dissertation presents the development of accessible VR prototypes that support the needs and abilities of older adults and suggests that even simple changes in VR hardware and applications can positively increase that accessibility of VR.

Author ORCID Identifier




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