occupational therapy assistive tech

OT Students Create Devices to Make Life Easier for Those with Disabilities

February 10, 2020
By: WSU News

Occupational therapy students visited the clients and therapists of The MassMATCH Assistive Technology Regional Center (ATRC), an affiliate of Easterseals Massachusetts, at the end of last semester to present handmade adaptive devices designed to make the lives of individuals with disabilities easier. Production of these prototypes was part of a final project in the course Assistive Technology I.

Kelsey Snodgrass ’20 and Lindsay Donofrio ’20 created the product “Cheek Chic,” a stencil that makes putting on blush and other facial makeup products easier for the visually impaired and legally blind.

“It really changed my perspective about everyday products being difficult for those with disabilities. It’s rewarding to know as an occupational therapist I have the knowledge and creativity to adapt products and make life easier for them. This feeling really came to life through this project,” says Snodgrass.

Students were required to design and fabricate a functional piece of equipment for an adult population that could be used for essential activities of daily living, such as their brushing teeth or showering, or other leisure, home management, work, school, or community-based activities. Senior students created prototypes that included plenty of self-care devices to aid in things like putting on makeup or gardening, as well as adaptive gloves and purses. The students took performance, visual, and cognitive ability into consideration when developing their tools.

Tracey Gibbs ’20 and her partner made adaptive pumpkin carving tools for people with fine motor deficits. They went into community settings like senior centers and libraries to test their products on real people to see what worked and what didn’t to assist in refining their prototype.

Likewise, students Johanna Quinn ’20 and Isabell Baldrate ’20 collected data from the community before coming up with an idea for their project. “It was clear there was an underlying need for adaptive winter gear. We created The Miraculous Mitten to make putting on and taking off gloves easier. Products like this allow them to be independent.”

Assistive Technology I is a required course for senior students during their fall semester. Through the course, students come to understand the evaluation process for assistive technology and how technology is used in treatment of these populations.

Instructor Tanya Trudell M.O.T., OTR/L, C/NDT, has taught this class for the past five years and recognizes the importance of students learning the clinical reasoning skills to be able to think outside of the box and adapt everyday equipment to meet the needs of people with disabilities. She continues to implement this final project, which she believes gives the student a holistic way to work hands on and create a meaningful product.

This is the second year in a row the students presented their handmade adaptive devices to the staff, clinicians, and clients at Easterseals Massachusetts, America’s largest nonprofit health care organization.

Assistive Technology Regional Center coordinator Robert Bilotta welcomed the students with open arms. Students not only got to present and receive feedback from the clinicians and clients there, but also received a tour of the facility and saw how some of the high-tech assistive devices in the ATRC were used. This allowed students to work on their presentation skills in a workplace setting, educate clients regarding the use of their devices, and be familiar with a resource in the community they can use during their careers.

Trudell plans to use the stories of Easterseals clients to enable students in next year’s class to develop prototypes based on real individuals with disabilities residing within the local Worcester community.

This semester, students moving on to the required course Assistive Technology II will focus on pediatric adaptive devices and participate in creating adaptive Ipad holders and personalized switches that activate toys with the tap of a button.

This article was written by graduate assistant Elizabeth Cormier, OT/s

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