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Using Virtual Reality, Bus Tour Teaches People About Unconscious Bias

Rebekah Morr
Two employees use virtual reality headsets to learn about unconscious bias.

A bus tour teaching people about unconscious bias is making its way across North Texas.

CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion’s Check Your Blind Spots tour is intended to help people recognize bias and be more inclusive.

Just outside the Texas Instruments headquarters in Dallas recently, a tour bus idled, scrawled with brightly colored words and images as employees filtered in and out.

Those onboard wore virtual reality headsets and tapped interactive screens while learning about their unconscious biases.

Tour manager Ryan Mosher said those unconscious biases are the judgements people make about others' abilities or character without even realizing it — and everyone has them. 

"People really need to think about what other people are going through, what other people experience and kind of put yourself in other people's shoes,” he said. 

Credit Rebekah Morr / KERA
Two women work on an activity in the bus.

Onboard, participants do just that. 

At one station, surrounded by black-out curtains, you stand in front of a full-length mirror. At first you see yourself reflected back. But then, the image shifts and a young black man stands in front of you. He starts describing his experience with bias. 

"For me, I hear this all the time: 'I don't see color' or 'I'm color blind,'" he said. "When you say that, you're refusing to accept my daily reality.” 

Credit Rebekah Morr / KERA News
A 3-D board labeled "Wake Up Call" sits in front of the bus.

The virtual reality components of the tour resonate with participants like Beth Bedell. She's part of Texas Instruments' human resources legal team.

"It's one thing to hear about these issues but to see it and witness it from different people's perspectives is something I've never done before,” she said. 

Seeing these different perspectives will prompt her to make changes in her daily life, she said, to be more inclusive and understanding.

The "Check Your Blind Spots" tour stops at research firm Gartner in Irving on March 3. The bus will then head south to Austin for South By Southwest. 

Rebekah Morr is KERA's All Things Considered newscaster and producer. She came to KERA from NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she worked as a news assistant at Weekend All Things Considered.