VR Permission and Waiver Forms

Young girl looks up wearing VR headset.Exploring the world in virtual reality means no field trip permission slips, no travel logistics, and lightens the financial and liability load on an educational institution, but we still can’t escape all permission slips and waivers. Lately, there have been requests and discussions in our Educators in VR Discord server about Virtual Reality Waivers and Permission Forms for underage students and the general public to be used in schools, libraries, and for public demonstration events. We went digging and found there are some good examples online.

NOTE: Since the COVID pandemic, many schools and businesses offering XR technology access have changed their permission and waiver forms and guidelines to account for health risks. We’re working on an update to this article accordingly.

Each public or student use of virtual devices varies per usage, device, physical setting (VR lab versus a chair in a library), student limitations, facility limitations, event or class outcomes, number of participants, etc. The permission and waiver should represent the specifics of the situation as well as the needs of your institution and facilities. Use the examples below to help you write your proposed waivers and review them with your administrators and legal representatives.

Let’s review the details that make a virtual reality waiver and permission form distinctive from other parental and guardian approval forms for students and for general use of VR in libraries and other public facilities.

Privacy and Age Restrictions

Privacy is a big issue for all online activities and apps, and VR is no exception.

Children of South Carolina Air National Guard Airmen participate in the S.C. Military Kids program at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, Sept. 17, 2017. SCANG youth experienced virtual reality goggles, drone flying, unplugged coding, computer science and expeditions during the two-day event, which introduces youth to possible careers. SCMK is designed to provide support to the children and youth of families that are impacted by global contingency operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson)
Children of South Carolina Air National Guard Airmen participate in the S.C. Military Kids program at McEntire Joint National Guard Base.

Any information disclosed through registrations or interactions online through software, apps, or online access come under several international privacy laws. The EU GDPR and other privacy laws, with which most of the world complies, applies to children under the age of 13. In general, under 13 should not access most Oculus VR, PlayStation, Steam, and other VR stores, and social VR apps like AltspaceVR, VR Chat, etc. Individually, countries and states have various age restrictions in general ranging from 12-16. The form should comply with your local laws as well as your institution’s requirements so users agree to abide by the privacy policy. Be aware that individual virtual apps also have age restrictions of their own, including age usage recommendations.

While it is beyond the scope of this informational article to discuss the pros and cons of such age law restrictions, be aware that there are many VR apps and games designs for under 13. These are not social or multi-player but individual, one-person experiences. Library and educational institutions preinstall apps for students and user access, controlling access and restricting usage to age-appropriate content, often clarified in the waiver.

The waiver in the Terms of Service by The Center VR is an extensive form that goes into great detail, including age-appropriate content and other privacy and respect issues, highlighted from an older version of their form:

To enter Virtual Reality you must wear a headset which will totally block your view of your real location, and headphones that will prevent you from hearing the outside world. You will communicate with your party and our team members through the built-in communications system. In the event of a fire alarm, the system will shut down immediately. If this happens, you should remove the headset and take instructions from our team members.

Your view of the virtual world can be shown on monitors in our centres, or not if you request that. Our team members can always see this view. Some multiplayer experiences will allow you to see, and be seen, by people online from anywhere in the real world in virtual reality, so please be mindful of your actions and language, respecting other children and adults who may be in the virtual world with you.

Many titles have an age rating or suggestion. Players will be able to choose any title. It is the players (or players guardian if under 18) responsibility to check the selected games are appropriate. The Centre VR system includes features to help display appropriate titles for the age of players, including filters on our web site, but this can only work when a player selects or provides their correct age.

Motion Sickness

A field trip to a local museum or business should include a condition for motion sickness during the trip as the transportation could impact participates, but it doesn’t. Yet this applies to VR users, and even some users of augmented reality. New standards are in place with devices and most apps features blinders, dark transparent overlays to the sides of the view area that research has found helps with motion sickness. Some apps and devices allow this to be turned on and off, so ensure they are on at the start of the usage or provide instructions to the user on how to use the blinders.

Update 2022: Research into cybersickness, VR sickness, and motion sickness experienced in virtual reality headsets has been found to impact a very small percentage of VR headset users, and adaptation to overcome the nauseous feeling is easily controlled with at least three sessions.

Other studies, and our own experiences, have shown that chewing a mint-flavored gum relieves the nauseous feeling almost immediately for VR users of all ages to calm the stomach and distract the mind.

Vision, Health, and Physical Issues

S.C. Military Kids in VRResearch into VR finds that those with vision, disabilities, and a variety of physical health issues find benefit from its use. Many with visual impairment and blindness can see in VR when they can’t in the real world, opening up many new possibilities and adventures. Other visual impairments like photo-sensitivities and physical and health impairments or conditions may struggle to use VR.

There are hazards associated with using VR both sitting and standing. Having watched students get so excited they fall off their chairs, and others trip over unseen wires, physical safety is always a concern.

Issues with touching also arise. In general, most VR guidelines and safe practices state that there is no touching. However, touching is essential when directing a student to press a specific controller button or directing them away from harm if they leave the play zone space or risk tripping on wires, etc. Just imagine the user playing Beat Saber and you see the risks involved. The form doesn’t have to mention touching, but you should provide instruction on the safe practices and guidelines for using the devices as younger students tend to tickle, pinch, and distract each other unless otherwise directed.

Taking these things into consideration, the waiver should include a hold harmless for the liability due to personal injury risks and all hazards, listed individually as well as all encompassing.

At the very least, educators and volunteers need to be aware of any visual or physical conditions so they are ready for someone who gets dizzy easily, inability to move their head freely, or, if using VR standing and moving around, able to work within the space limitations.

The White Plains Public Library has an online form for liability covering everyone using VR devices in the library with a great permission for dealing with the risks involved in VR.

Due to the unpredictable nature of the human response to virtual reality (dizziness, nausea, seizures, fear of heights, bumping into objects, etc.), all participants are required to sign this waiver releasing the White Plains Public Library from any liability regarding your (or your child/dependent/minor’s) use of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and/or any of the Library’s VR equipment.

The wavier for Virtual Reality at Berkeley Computer Science Undergraduate Association’s Equipment Use and Liability Document (PDF) covers the physical aspects. It states:

Assumption of Risks:Participation in The Activity carries with it certain inherent risks that cannot be eliminated regardless of the care taken to avoid injuries. The specific risks vary from one activity to another, but the risks range from 1) minor injuries such as scratches, bruises, and sprains 2) major injuries such as eye injury or loss of sight, joint or back injuries, heart attacks, and concussions to 3) catastrophic injuries including paralysis and death. I have read the previous paragraphs and I know, understand, and appreciate these and other risks that are inherent in The Activity. I hereby assert that my participation is voluntary and that I knowingly assume all such risks.

Benicia Public Library (PDF) offered an all encompassing policy:

I acknowledge these risks and assume responsibility for my participation in the VR experience. I hereby release, hold harmless any employee or authorized volunteer of the Benicia Public Library, or other city employee involved in the facilitation of the equipment an experience (hereafter referred to as “facilitators”) and indemnify them, the City of Benicia and its offers against any or all claims, actions, suits, procedures, costs, expenses (including attorney’s fees and expenses), damages and liabilities arising out of, connected with, or resulting from my VR participation including without limitation, those resulting from the manufacture, selection, delivery, possession, use or operation of such equipment. Additionally, this release shall be binding upon my estate, my heirs, my representatives and assigns. I hereby certify that I, or the minor participant for whom I am legally responsible, am/is in good health and do/does not suffer from a heart condition, contagious dermatological condition, or other ailment which could e exacerbated by participation in the VR experience, or pose a risk to other participants.

Another point to consider is what happens after the user puts down the headset and walks out the door into the real world. In the Guelph Public Library Virtual Reality Consent Form, it states:

The risks include, among other things: seizures, loss of awareness, eye strain, eye or muscle twitching, involuntary movements, altered, blurred, or double vision or other visual abnormalities, dizziness, disorientation, impaired balance, impaired hand-eye coordination, excessive sweating, increased salivation, nausea, light-headedness, discomfort or pain in the head or eyes, drowsiness, decreased ability to multi-task, fatigue, or any symptoms similar to motion sickness, all of which can persist and become more apparent hours after use and which may lead to an increased risk of injury when engaging in normal activities in the real world after leaving the Premises.

Mental Health Issues

Research continues to find benefit for VR and phobias, anxieties, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health issues. However, demonstration apps and games may trigger anxieties. The brain often believes what it sees is real, even if the user knows it isn’t. Some institutions’ forms ask if the student has been diagnosed with an anxiety and mental health disorder.

The New Canaan Library’s Release of Liability (PDF) states:

1. I am using the VR equipment voluntarily.
2. I assume all of the physical, psychological, and financial risks associated with the use of VR equipment.

The Buellton Rec SpaceVR Rules and Wavier Form (PDF) groups the mental issues with health, a gentle inclusion:

I affirm that my participation and/or the participation of my dependent child/ward (hereinafter “My Child”) is fully voluntary and neither I nor My Child has any known physical, mental or health-related reasons or problems that should preclude or restrict my or My Child’s participation in the Included Activities.

The Douglas County Library VR Usage Parental Permission Form (PDF) asks straight out:

You have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Manufacturer and VR Store Policies

When you purchase and use a virtual device, you as the owner are to comply with manufacturers and store policies. As a user of the device, even though you aren’t the owner, most licenses and terms and conditions still apply to you.

As an educator, educational institution, or library, familiarity with the terms and conditions of the manufacturers is essential. We’ve provided some here. Please check regularly as the terms may change without warning.

Example Forms

The following are example forms found online. Some forms cover libraries, others colleges and university usages, and some for special events and public teaching. Please check with the administration of your institution to customize the final form per their needs. Please note that some of these are PDF documents.

If you are using a form for your VR and AR projects, classes, library, or other facility and wish to share it, please post it below or in our various social media platforms including Educators in VR Discord group, Facebook, and Twitter. We’d love your feedback on what works and what doesn’t in the forms, and your experiences using them.

Photo Credit: S.C. Air National Guard on Flickr

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