How Can Occupational Therapy Remove Barriers?

I’ve learned over the years that very few people know what an Occupational Therapist is. So before you start to think that Occupational Therapists find jobs for people, let me take a minute to explain their role in the habilitation and rehabilitation processes.  Habilitation refers to a process aimed at helping individuals who are born with a disability to attain, keep, or improve skills for daily living, while rehabilitation refers to regaining skills, abilities, or knowledge that may have been lost or compromised as a result of an individual acquiring a disability.  In short, Occupational Therapists help individuals across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities including bathing, dressing, cooking, cleaning…and even working if that is a part of the individual’s daily life!

While an individual may still need personal assistance from time to time, there are many assistive technologies that can enable them to manage their activities of daily living more independently.  These technologies range from low tech to high tech and can range from economical to very expensive.  How much would you be willing to spend to live your life more independently?

Most “low tech” devices or solutions are little or no cost; however, they can make a big difference!  Some examples of low tech solutions include:

  • Adaptive eating utensils (e.g. foam handles, deep sides)
  • Color-coded items for easier locating and identifying
  • Non-slip material to hold things in place
  • Adaptive dressing equipment (e.g. button hook, elastic shoe laces)
  • Adaptive bathing devices (e.g. hand-held showerhead, long bath sponge, tub/shower seat)
  • Adaptive equipment for cooking (e.g. liquid level indicator, large print measuring cups/spoons)
  • Workplace modifications (e.g. ergonomic keyboard/mouse, pencil grip, document stand)

As the world has become more technologically advanced, individuals with disabilities have benefitted greatly.  In the realm of assistive technology, these everyday conveniences for the general population become life-enhancing tools for individuals with disabilities.  They are typically more “high tech” than the items mentioned above and include items such as:

  • Radio/ultrasound/ infrared to remotely control appliances (e.g. The Clapper, fan remote)
  • Speech-to-text software (e.g. Dragon NaturallySpeaking)
  • Magnification or text-to-speech software (e.g. ZoomText, Window Eyes, JAWS, Dolphin Guide)
  • Smartphone personal assistants (e.g. Siri, Google Now)
  • Speech generating devices for communication (e.g. EyeMax, Tech Speak, apps for tablets)
  • Smartphone features and apps (e.g. VoiceOver, TalkBack, Money Reader, KNFB Reader)
  • Smart speaker technology for environmental control (e.g. Amazon Echo, Google Home)
  • Office technology (e.g. larger monitors, telephone headsets, email)

As you go about your daily routine, take notice of the things that you use for convenience that could make a difference in the independence of someone who has physical difficulties, vision impairments, or other limitations.  As an Occupational Therapist, I am continually looking for solutions to make the lives of individuals with limitations a little bit better…for school, home, work, and life!

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About the Author : Jennifer Cunningham


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