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Assistive Technology Makes a Difference for Individuals with Brain Injury

Modifications foster individuals’ independence and safety within their daily roles and routines

By Emily DeBel, MS, OTR/L, ATP, Program Coordinator, Occupational Therapy Fellowship Program in Physical Rehabilitation, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (a Select Medical hospital)

Woman wearing a robotic mechanism that enables her to walk
Emily DeBel, MS, OTR/L, ATP.

In today’s world, there is a wide range of “smart” devices such as phones, watches, TVs, and home appliances. These devices offer an abundance of opportunities for individuals with disabilities, and many have integrated smart devices into their daily routines. Given the prevalence and continuous advancements in technology, occupational therapists have recognized the potential to use “assistive technology” to benefit individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other disabilities.

Assistive technology refers to the use of readily available tech devices and equipment that can support individuals with disabilities, helping them increase their independence and safety in daily activities. It is especially valuable for individuals who have experienced traumatic brain injury. For example, power wheelchairs can be adapted to be controlled with one’s gaze or nod of the head, allowing people with limited mobility to move more freely. Individuals with long-term aphasia can use communication devices controlled by switches, head movements, or eye gaze. Adaptive switches can be programmed to help individuals use cell phones to communicate with loved ones.

Many companies that sell commercial products have developed adapted versions of their offerings. For instance, L’Oréal created a stabilizing device to apply lip gloss, enabling individuals with limited hand mobility to apply makeup on their own. Pottery Barn introduced a line of accessible home décor and furniture, making it easier for wheelchair users to navigate their homes. Gaming companies have adapted gaming devices, allowing individuals with different needs to participate in leisure activities once again. Apple has even developed a smart hearing aid for people with impaired arm mobility, enabling them to independently manage their hearing aids.

Assistive technology opens a world of possibilities for individuals with disabilities. As Christopher Reeve once said, “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” With the help of assistive technology, clinicians can assist individuals with brain injuries to participate fully in all aspects of life.

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