Last year at Advance Rehab Centre we shared an article ‘The Latest Technology-Can It Assist or Does It Just Make Life a Little More Difficult?’ This article highlighted how our Occupational Therapists are using new technology, such as iPad’s and Smart Phones as one of their many treatment tools.
With the world today being more and more reliant on technology- such as mobile phones, the Internet, Emails and social media it’s not surprising that our clients are craving the ability to access this same technology. However, for those people with a physical disability, the latest technology can create some unforseen barriers. For example, touch screen functions such as those on the iPad or other interactive devices work well for people with good hand function and dexterity, but what if you are unable to open your hand or isolate your finger movements? And the idea of the iPad being light weight and easy to carry is fantastic, but what if you don’t have the upper limb strength or movement to pick it up in the first place?
In order to address these problems and enable clients with physical disabilities to access the latest technology, there are now many products available on the open market which bridge the gap between technology and accessibility. Products available include, mounting devices which can be attached to a client’s wheelchair or bed, screen overlays to increase the size of the screen for easier visibility and a large range of alternative pointers to assist those with limited hand function.
Debbie (pictured below) is a 53 year old client who was referred to one of our Occupational Therapists at Advance Rehab Centre. Debbie has Cerebral Palsy and had experienced a significant decline in her health, which had affected her ability to use her upper limbs and hands. Debbie was unable to complete any functional tasks such as using her computer, turning the page of a book or driving her wheelchair. With the help of the occupational therapist, Debbie identified her goals as being able to return to some of her favourite daily tasks including, using her computer to access her emails and Facebook, listen to music, write (type) poetry and read books. Debbie has previously used a head pointer to access her desktop computer, however due to the change in her condition she was now unable to spend time home alone which meant she could not use her desktop computer. Debbie required a portable solution.
The occupational therapist recognised Debbie needed a portable solution and trialled an iPad with the existing head pointer for her PC. Unfortunately, due to advancements in technology the iPad and the existing head pointer were not compatible. The solution- a head pointer specifically designed for use with the iPad sold by a USA company (www.rjcooper.com). With no supplier in Australia and no ability to trial the head pointer before purchase, it was a small risk but the product was purchased online and delivered very quickly. The head pointer from RJ Cooper (pictured below) worked brilliantly with the iPad. Debbie was familiar with using a head pointer, therefore needed only minimal assistance to modify the pressure required on the touch screen and education and practice to learn the software differences between using an iPad and her PC.
The next barrier faced was positioning the iPad somewhere on Debbie’s wheelchair where she could easily access it, without compromising her posture. The iPad also needed to be easily moved by care staff that assisted Debbie throughout the day. Sydney based company, CommunicATe (www.communicateAT.com.au) were able to assist with trialling and supplying a suitable mount and protective cover for Debbie’s iPad. CommunicATe assisted with the setup and positioning of the mount and provided education on the easy use and care of the mount and case.
Debbie is now able to access her emails, surf the internet, use Facebook and write her poetry all using the iPad and head pointer. Debbie is able to independently stay connected regardless of where she is. She continues to learn how use new features on the iPad and is attending a weekly group program which teaches iPad skills. Debbie has regained her independence and is now able to communicate and participate in the online community which she has been unable to do for many months.
Debbie’s story is a fantastic example of how new technology can provide many opportunities for clients with disabilities to become engaged and independent in the online community. Occupational Therapists and product suppliers such as RJ Cooper and CommunicATe assist client’s to create and maintain their independence using the technology we are so reliant on today.
For more information on assistive technology or our Occupational Therapy services, please contact Advance Rehab Centre on, ph: