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Researchers are using Minecraft to provide virtual mentoring for deaf teenagers

The world’s first virtual mentoring world for teenagers who are deaf or hard of hearing has been set up inside popular sandbox game Minecraft.

The initiative, called “League of Hearoes”, offers a safe space for disabled teens to interact with each other under the guidance of qualified mentors. It is a chance for the youths to socialise without being defined by their disabilities.

Max Learmont and Nolan Yu created the concept in response to a brief by Hear For You, a charity dedicated to assisting deaf teenagers to reach their full potential in life.

The project’s aim was to help Hear For You communicate with its target audience. Through their research, Learmont and Yu realised that most deaf or hard of hearing teens had built an “invisible wall” around them to avoid any communications that reinforce their disability – charities and disability services especially.

This made it difficult for these organisations to assist in their development. But once the researchers realised that 92% of deaf or hard-of-hearing teenagers are gamers, the resolution was simple. It was a match made in Minecraft heaven.

“These insights lead us to the concept of creating a virtual world in Minecraft where deaf teenagers can safely connect with other deaf teenagers, and it also provides a great platform for Hear For You to provide mentoring opportunities in a completely unique way that teenagers are open to,” Learmont told B&T.

Set up with the assistance of volunteers from the deaf community, the League of Hearoes world has been developed over the last six months through weekly monitored sessions and live events.

Jemma, a League of Hearoes member, told B&T: “It’s so cool how we can just play and meet new people, without worrying about my hearing.”

The group now has 50 members who log in throughout the week to build crazy creations together and foster their new friendships. After only a few weeks of playing, the Hearoes have already created The League of Hearoes Castle, and a gravity-defying roller coaster that spreads across the map.

The virtual world is a great example of the potential for adapting modern technology in creative ways to help those who most need it.

Any deaf or hard of hearing teenagers between 12 and 18 are free to join via the League of Hearoes website.

Special themed live events are held each Sunday at 7pm AEST.

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