The Transformative Power of Research
Researchers in the School of Occupational Therapy are engaged in a wide range of research activities that are positively impacting how people engage with the world around them. Below are some examples of the work being done by faculty members and how it is or could be improving human health and well being and optimizing social inclusion and social justice around the globe.
The potential of technology
Technology transforms the way we live. But can we transform technology? Can our individual and societal needs drive the change? Professor Liliana Alvarez is passionate about discovering how technology can help at-risk populations participate in the daily activities that give meaning to their lives. Including assistive, simulation and automation technologies, her recent work specifically focuses on the use of technology in support of at-risk drivers. Trained in both the health and engineering sciences, professor Alvarez seeks to uncover new ways to harness the potential of technology to enhance the health and well-being of those at-risk.
Enabling occupational engagement through supportive environments
Pulling from a variety of disciplines including occupational therapy, disability theory, and critical gerontology, professor Colleen McGrath is expanding how we think about environmental access for older adults with age-related vision loss (ARVL). She is taking a holistic approach to understanding those environmental factors that support or restrict participation in meaningful occupations for the growing number of Canadian seniors who experience vision loss.
Using a variety of participatory and hands-on methods, Professor McGrath is also focused on expanding current understandings of how older adults make decisions about technology acquisition and particularly how issues of self-image and identity weigh into the decision-making process.
Understanding person and place
Professor Carri Hand is helping to create communities that support daily life and social inclusion for aging adults. Her research aims to understand the interactions between older adults and their neighbourhoods, focusing on how social and physical neighbourhood characteristics may limit or promote participation in occupations, connections with others, and a sense of belonging. With local community and academic partners, she is bringing together methods from occupational therapy, geography, and social science to develop new ways of studying neighbourhoods. Her research provides insight into the development of neighbourhood features; how health professionals can better promote social inclusion and connectedness in older adults; and how health services can better link with neighbourhood resources.
Managing and living with movement disorders
With an increasingly aging population, the prevalence of neurological disorders that hinder a person's ability to move is on the rise.
While there are many pharmaceutical interventions that can help patients cope, professor Jeffrey Holmes hopes to show that non-pharmaceutical management tools can also be effective in helping to maintain and/or improve functionality. His work aims to develop activity protocols that improve gait and balance and assist people in maintaining independence and quality of life.
The transformative power of reflection and action
We generate knowledge when we reflect on our practices and everyday occupations together. Professor Elizabeth Anne Kinsella's research examines how knowledge is generated through reflection in and on professional practices and everyday occupations.
Professor Kinsella directs the Epistemologies of Practice Lab where a range of projects are underway related to professional education and practice, human occupation, reflective/reflexive practices, ethics, practice wisdom, mindful occupation, embodiment, critical disability studies, end-of-life care, creative occupations, and occupational and epistemic justice.
She wrote the book on Assistive Technology
Literally. Professor Jan Polgar has co-authored two editions of Assistive Technologies: Principles and Practice, and changed how academics and clinicians understand the interactions between humans and the devices they use to live engaged lives. Her work in understanding how people with disabilities utilize technology has made her one of the world's leading experts in the design and use of assistive devices and has led to the development of more user-friendly technologies.
Challenging occupational inequities and expanding possibilities
Working with a variety of community partners and persons facing challenges to doing the occupations they need and want to do in order to survive and thrive, professor Debbie Laliberte Rudman examines how changes in social policies and broader discourses, particular relevant to work, retirement, aging and disabilities, shape inequities in opportunities for occupations. Her work aims to raise awareness of how contemporary changes result in occupational inequities for particular social groups, like aging workers or persons experiencing age-related vision loss, and to inform policy, service and other types of solutions that open up occupational possibilities for such collectives.
Keeping kids moving
With childhood obesity rates increasing and physical activity levels decreasing, professor Trish Tucker is working with childcare centres to improve young children’s activity patterns. Her research focuses on understanding the environmental factors that support and deter physical activity among this unique population, and considers the challenges expressed by parents and childcare educators in getting kids moving.