Is This a Paradigm Shift?

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Technology has influenced human occupation and disability on an unprecedented scale in the past 100 years and is continuing to acquire an ever-growing role in human occupation in the modern world. Occupational therapists continue to see new technological innovations in adaptive technologies and rehabilitation platforms each year, from new mobility technologies to communication platforms.

“Over the past millennium, no single force has had more of an impact on the quality of life across society than technology,” said Roger Smith, PhD, OT, FAOTA at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at the 2017 AOTA Annual Conference & Expo. See article in AJOT

Smith Predicts major shifts in the relationship between occupational therapy (OT) and technology. He identifies rapid growth in the areas of robotics, communication and information technologies, personal technology and transportation making these predictions regarding technology and OT...

  • Technology will continue to integrate into our practice at a quick pace requiring professional competence in new technologies and clinically related skills.

  • More advanced user-friendly technologies will allow for more sophisticated technology applications for those with disabilities.

  • OTs will be more comfortable and knowledgeable in applying occupation-related, environmental, therapeutic, and assistive technologies (Smith, 2017).

These new perspectives are challenging our traditional views. Here’s why.

In the world of rehabilitation, new rehabilitation technologies had been viewed as a specialty or supplement to therapy in previous practice frameworks. New perspectives following occupational therapy’s Annual Conference and Centennial Celebration aim to embrace technology as a focus in future theory and practice. With expertise in human occupation and adaptation, OTs can play a key role in developing and implementing new therapeutic technologies into clinical interventions.

How do these views relate to rehabilitation robotics? These new perspectives will increase the presence and strengthen the validity of robotic technologies in the clinic. Robotic therapy devices have the potential to improve quality of life by increasing sensory stimulation and patient motivation in therapy. According to one study 54% of all work-related injuries across OT and physical therapy (PT) disciplines are associated with manual therapy and transferring (Darragh, Campo & King, 2012). Robotic technologies will play a role as a tool in task repetitive training of BADL (basic activities of daily living) and IADL (instrumental activities of daily living) techniques, driver education, manual therapies and transfer techniques to increase therapy intensity and reduce therapist injury in the future.

To view Smith's lecture or Darragh's 2012 study on work-related injury see below!

Post by Holly Mitchell, MOT, OTR/L


Darragh, A. R., Campo, M., & King, P. (2012). Work-related activities associated with injury in occupational and physical therapists. Medline, 42(3). doi:10.3233/WOR-2012-1430

Roger O. Smith; Technology and Occupation: Past, Present, and the Next 100 Years of Theory and Practice. Am J Occup Ther 2017;71(6):7106150010p1-7106150010p15. doi:10.5014/ajot.2017.716003.

OT CornerEmily Marsh