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Adaptive aids and technology

Laura Bergstrom, MSc. O.T. – Occupational Therapist, Neil Squire Society

Ms. Laura Bergstrom received her undergraduate degree in health sciences from Simon Fraser University in 2009 and her MSc. in Occupational Therapy from the University of Alberta in 2015. In 2015, she obtained the Assistive Technology Professional designation through the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA). As an occupational therapist in the Solutions Department of the Neil Squire Society, Ms. Bergstrom specializes in workplace accommodations and provides a variety of services, including assistive technology and ergonomic assessments, worksite assessments, and education for organizations. Her practice is centered on assisting clients through a collaborative and interactive process to participate meaningfully in their everyday occupations.

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Low- and high-tech solutions

Adaptive technology (also known as assistive technology, enabling technology, accessible technology) includes devices that can help you make the most of your abilities in completing your job tasks and work independently. Adaptive technology can substitute for, compensate for, maintain or improve your work abilities.

Qualified professionals, like occupational therapists, are the best people to recommend which adaptive technology devices suit you and your job. In doing an assessment, professionals will consider your work abilities, job tasks and familiarity with them, and work setting. They will also consider your experience with technology and any likely future changes in your health.

Adaptive technology is divided into low tech and high tech.

Low tech refers to equipment that:

  • can be bought ready-made
  • is low cost
  • requires little training to use
  • can be easily found

High tech refers to equipment that:

  • is custom-made for each user
  • is expensive
  • often requires training to use
  • can be difficult to find

Mid-tech devices combine low- and high-tech aspects.

Here are a few examples of low-, mid- and high-tech adaptive technology:

Mobility:

  • Low tech – cane or walker
  • Mid tech – manual wheelchair
  • High tech – power wheelchair

Computer input:

Vision:

  • Low tech – large print text, over-the-counter handheld magnifier
  • Mid tech – portable electronic magnifier or larger monitor
  • High tech – specialized magnification or screen reading software on a computer

Fatigue: Successful fatigue management strategies can greatly vary between individuals. There are several different ways to approach fatigue management in terms of adaptive technology solutions.

  • Low tech – over-the-counter timer to remind an individual to take a break
  • Mid tech – ergonomic workstation equipment such as a supportive ergonomic office chair that provides the appropriate support for an individual’s body to assist with posture, pain and fatigue management
  • High tech – mobility solutions such as a scooter if the job requires a lot of walking throughout the day

No matter whether you need low-, mid-, or high-tech adaptive technology, its purpose remains the same—to bridge gaps between your abilities, your job tasks, and your work setting. With adaptive technology, the way you work may change, but the outcome should be the same. For many employees, the ideal solution may be to combine low-, mid-, and high-tech equipment.

Next steps:

Positional requirements (ergonomics)