Assistive Technology: Call In the Pros- Occupational Therapists

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.
It's reality - in our day-to-day lives, there is a high level of equipment abandonment. This is especially true for Assistive Technology devices, although I have seen it with equipment across the spectrum of people with disabilities. Why?
  • False Advertising (lets just blame it on them this time!)
  • Product does what it says it will ... with extras (noises, lights, odors)
  • Doesn't Fit!
  • Person lacks the know-how and/or physical ability to install the Product correctly
  • Product is f-r-a-g-i-l-e ... and needs to withstand strong, ataxic arm motions
  • Person's needs change (person regains movement, loses cognitive skills, etc.)
  • ... and the list goes on ...

In my years as an Occupational Therapist I have experienced equipment abandonment in more than one area. 

  • Once, a mother told me that a bath seat had been ordered for her child, but it didn't fit in their bathtub. Oops? 

  • Another told me that an $8,000 Environmental Control Unit (ECU - essentially a very expensive, fully featured remote control) had been 'lost'. They had not been using it because the initial person never set it up correctly. When they found us, they thought they would pull it back out so we could install it correctly - and couldn't find it.
Common sense tells me that equipment abandonment is a baaaad thing - bad for our patients, bad for their caregivers. It's frustrating, disappointing, and honestly, not necessary. When seeking equipment for you or a loved one, how can you ensure that it is appropriate and will be used?
  • Seek Professional Assistance
There, I've said it, call in the pros. Find the expert that has experience with the equipment/device/etc. you are seeking. How can an expert help?
  • Goals. The experts should help you with the steps to reach your goal.
  • Assessment. The experts should assess you physical and cognitive abilities to narrow the playing field to appropriate devices/plans that will fit you.
  • Trials. The experts should have equipment to allow you to "Try before you Buy", or if equipment is not the issue, play through multiple scenarios and plans with you to ensure that what you are seeking will work. For you.
For example, I work in Assistive Technology. We have text-to-speech programs, computers, alternative mice, and more that we setup for people to use ensure that they can access what they want in an appropriate, safe, secure, and consistent manner.

As much as I would like to say that my predictions about what a person needs to access the computer are 100% as soon as people walk through my door, they are not. And if I would have recommended the equipment without a trial? Boo...more unused equipment, needless money spent, and frustration! Yikes!
How do you know they are qualified?
  • References.
  • Certifications.
  • And a willingness to listen, explain ideas or issues fully to you, and dedicate themselves to ensuring that your needs are met.
Examples:
  • Certification for Assistive Technology Professionals is the ATP designation after the professional's name. Hand Therapists? CHT - or Certified Hand Therapist. 
Occupational Therapists are specialists with assisting people with disabilities back to independence with their daily tasks. Who would be more appropriate for a home assessment than an occupational therapist?
 
So, my wish for you is this:
  • If you have a unique need, check around. 
  • Ask questions. 
  • Try equipment. 
You may be surprised! Your evaluation, at least, will likely be covered by insurance (usually) and the people you speak with may have ideas to help with funding, if it is an issue. If nothing else, you will see and try new things. 
 
What could be more beautiful?!

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