2000 Conference Proceedings

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UNHANDICCAPING COMPUTER FOR THE DISABLED!

The Rehabilitative Computer and Technology Unit, has been functioning for the past nine years, as a satellite of the Occupational Therapy Department and part of a multidisciplinary team in the Alyn Rehabilitation Center in Jerusalem, Israel. Assessment and treatment are offered to both in and outpatients (of all ages) suffering from all types of physical and/or cognitive disturbances.

The aim is to discover the patients’ motor and cognitive abilities, using them to fulfill their wishes and compensating, in part, for their disabilities by using computer technology. The continuing progress in this technology offers tremendous implications for enhancing quality of life. The goal, for our patients, is to enable them to fulfill their personal and social needs and wishes, such as: written communication, leisure time activities, educational studies, vocational training and in the work field.

The Unit purchases existing commercial equipment and often adapts, changes and creates soft and hardware for each individual, according to his/her specific controlled movements and cognitive understanding. All creations of, or adaptations to, hardware are made by the Unit’s staff in cooperation with the Center’s Bio-Mechanical Laboratory. Computer specialists, under the guidance and supervision of our professional staff, make software developments. The high cost of assistive technology is often one of the most influencing considerations in the decision making process. There are no rules to be followed. Tools have to be developed according to the changing needs and dynamic changes of each patient.

Intervention by occupational therapists starts early, following trauma or illness, and may include: maintaining range of motion of upper extremities, individual adaptation of patient/nurse call systems, sitting and seating, activities of daily living, mobility and occupation. Many patients require customized seating with special inserts, and/or supports for: head, body, arms, legs. Powered wheelchairs are also adapted individually.

The following case studies illustrate how some of our patients have found and used computers to achieve their personal goals. The patients’ needs are ever changing, requiring constant reevaluation and readjustment of treatment methods, equipment and goals.

Case studies will be presented, demonstrating how computer technology has dramatically affected the lives of our patients. The demonstration includes, amongst others, patients suffering from: Visual Impairments, Duchenne type Progressive Muscular Dystrophy (on respirator), Athetoid Quadriparetic Cerebral Palsy, high level Spinal Cord Injury, Arthrogryphosis, Hydrocephalus with mental retardation, Tranverse Myelitis, Spinal Muscular Atrophy and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Over the past decade, there has been significant progress in using computers as a rehabilitation tool. However, there is still much room for further research and for applications to enhance the patient’s quality- of- life. The high cost of assistive technology is often, unfortunately, one of the most influential considerations in the decision making process. This cost demands not only initial outlay and maintenance, but also continual additions of soft and hardware to the system. The following factors must always be taken into consideration when planning recommendations: family, socio-economic and physical environment and cultural background. The therapist requires wide theoretical knowledge, imagination, creativity and a holistic outlook in order to find an ideal solution for each patient at each stage. Application of technology helps the patient to become more independent & competent, which will, in turn, often improve motivation, initiative and self- esteem.

The application of computer technology in rehabilitation helps to solve some of the human problems and limitations caused by impairment, disability and handicap.


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