New Technology at Work

Note: In 2011, AOTA identified this and many other topics as emerging niches in occupational therapy. Today, many of these topics have become mainstream. Learn more about the 2011 Emerging Niche series here.

New technology Why emerging? The rapid growth and expansion of new technology means that both employees and employers are having to adapt to new work environments and expectations. Laptops, tablet computers such as the iPad, and smart phones are changing the way we work. Breakthroughs in assistive technology and bionic limbs are providing people with disabilities more options for independence and more opportunities to participate in the workforce.

Get Involved! Kim Hartmann, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, became interested in the use of technology for people with disabilities in the early 1980s when personal computers were being released with built-in accessibility features. "It was very exciting and showed great promise for people with disabilities to use typical computers rather than the highly adapted ones we previously had to use," says Hartmann.

Occupational therapy practitioners have the knowledge and skills to determine how technology may benefit clients, but Hartmann urges them to work on an interdisciplinary team to get the whole picture and to learn how to match the technology to the client's needs, desired outcomes, and working environment. The recent trends in new technology—such as tablet computers, applications (apps), and free downloadable products—increase clients' access in the workplace, education, community settings, and the home.

"Technology is a tool that practitioners can use as part of their intervention plan," says Hartmann. "It does not have to be high tech. Client success can be achieved with low tech as well." Hartmann believes technology is one more tool to increase engagement and participation in occupations.