Archive for December, 2015

The Occupational Therapy Lens: Three Things to Keep in Mind

Monday, December 7th, 2015

Creating Assistive Technology for Clients with Disabilities:

The Occupational Therapy Lens: Three Things to Keep in Mind 


Over the past few months, I have had the unique opportunity to collaborate with clients and engineering students to develop assistive technologies. During this experience, I have witnessed the different strengths that an interprofessional team brings to the design process. Below are three useful tips from the occupational therapy perspective.

By Gina Khalid, Occupational Therapy Student – MGH Institute of Health Professions


  1. Ask questions and listen

When creating assistive technologies (AT) for your clients, chances are that you and your team have many questions. But what is the most effective way to ask good questions, while also allowing your clients to be heard? A common technique used in occupational therapy practice is motivational interviewing, often explained using the acronym “OARS”.

  • Ask Open-ended questions that help your client talk and share, rather than answer “yes” or “no” (e.g., “what does a typical day look like for you?”)
  • Make Affirmations by recognizing your client’s strengths
  • Practice Reflective listening (e.g., “that seems difficult for you”)
  • Summarize key elements of the conversation


  1. Get your clients involved

Designing AT for your clients is an exciting and rewarding experience, and it should come as no surprise that your clients want to be a part of the process. Sometimes their enthusiasm may interrupt the fabrication process, but remember, your clients are the experts in their disability and their input regarding the AT is valuable. In the end, your clients are the ones using the AT firsthand, so get them involved and ideate together!


  1. Consider the environment

It is really easy to overlook the environment and solely focus on the task at hand. Often, AT teams are so focused (rightly so) on prototype testing, materials selection, and software that the broader context can get lost. Although the client is a part of several environments (e.g., built, natural, social, and cultural), the physical environment is the most relevant to AT. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Where will the client primarily be using the AT device?
  • Are there other spaces in which the client may potentially use the AT device?
  • Will the AT device be able to adapt to different environmental conditions?
  • How seamlessly can the AT device be transported between environments?


Integrating these simple tips into your AT design process will not only help build rapport with your clients, but will ensure that the AT you create makes a meaningful difference in the lives of your clients.