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MSWA Bulletin Magazine Spring 2021

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What is assistive technology and how can it help you? | Good health monitoring practices | Pain and pain management series: Part 2 | Farewell Marcus Stafford


OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY WHAT IS ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY AND HOW CAN IT HELP YOU? Ever since the introduction to the NDIS, the term ‘assistive technology’ has become more widely known. The World Health Organisation describes assistive technology as an umbrella term covering the systems and services related to the delivery of assistive products and services. On the other hand, assistive products maintain or improve an individual’s functioning and independence, thereby promoting their wellbeing. The aim of the assistive technology and its products is to help people with disabilities bridge the gap between their disability and the ability to be able to pursue their goals. There are many types of assistive technology and it can be daunting to know which would suit your needs. It is therefore important to involve a health professional who understands the disability, your environment, and the goals that you would like to achieve. It is also important to note that the device is not meant to be an end in itself but rather a tool as part of an ongoing process to achieve your goals. WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM ASSISTIVE DEVICES OR TECHNOLOGY? This may be surprising but the majority of the population can and is benefiting from assistive technology (AT) in different areas of life. It not only benefits the users of AT but also the people around them such as carers, teachers, employers and other people in the community. For example, a ramp from the parking area into the shopping centre will not only benefit wheelchair users but also the general population such as mums with prams. Or software that enlarges print on phones and computers will not only benefit people with a vision impairment, but will also benefit those who are ageing. Appropriate and relevant access to these devices and the adoption and application of AT can provide individuals with opportunities to participate in community life which will in turn benefit the rest of the community. 20

TYPES OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY Assistive technology can range in types and categories and can be disability-specific or mainstream. In recent years, there has also been more of a shift into making mainstream products such as tablets and computers more accessible to enable access for a person with a disability. The following are some categories and examples of assistive devices. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and development in assistive devices are constantly improving: Category Mobility aids Transfer equipment Seating and positioning Temperature control Computer technology Physical modifications Adaptive devices for daily living Recreation Communication Examples Wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, canes, crutches, prosthetic devices, orthotic devices, guide dogs or assistance animals Hoists, transfer benches, vehicle transfer aids Recliners, adapted seating, cushions Air conditioners, cooling devices such as pillow and mattress protectors, cooling vests Computer software and hardware such as screen readers, screen enlargement apps and software, in-built accessibility programs in mainstream devices Modification for the built environment of the home or workplace including installation of grab rails, ramps, increasing doorways, circulation spaces. This can also include modifications of vehicles to enable safe transfers or driving techniques. Adaptive switches and utensils, specialised handles and grips, dressing aids, personal alarms, adapted personal hygiene aids Devices that enable participation in recreational and sporting activities include adaptive controls for video games, cuffs for grasping paddles or racquets etc. Devices that enable communication for people with speech and/or hearing difficulties. Examples include communication boards, text to voice software and specialised apps. MATCHING YOU TO THE RIGHT ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY Matching the person to the right AT for the right task can be a complex process that involves careful consideration of the person and their family members, the environment, the technology and the task involved. It involves technical knowledge of equipment and its interactions with the person and environment and a consultation process with the individual to come up with a product that would fit best to the individual’s needs. Before getting any equipment, it might be useful to consider these questions: / What is my goal task to complete? / What barriers are there that prevent me from achieving this goal? / Who can assist me with selecting the right AT? / Where can I find what AT is available? / How will I determine which brand and features are the best for my needs? / How will the AT be paid for? / Can I trial the equipment? / What kind of training do I need to use the AT? / Who should I contact if I have follow up questions or if the equipment breaks down? WHERE TO SEEK HELP The MSWA Allied Health team comprises Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Speech Pathologists and Nurses who can assist with assessing your needs and goals and sourcing the right fit for you in terms of your assistive technology needs. Your Support Coordinator or MSWA Client Liaison Coordinator can also assist with the funding from your NDIS plan if appropriate. You can also find out more information from Disability Gateway – a government portal for people with disabilities to source and connect with information and services that is relevant to their needs. It has a specific Assistive Technology page that can link you to more information and services depending on your needs and criteria: CRYSTAL CHAN MSWA OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY MANAGER 21