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Assistive Technology Helps Troops Gain Independence

Assistive technology helps service members, like Walter Reed Army Medical Center wounded warrior Staff Sgt. Drew McComber, return to “normal” daily living.  “It seems like small things you take for granted,” explained McComber, who counts on assistive devices such as a battery-operated magnifier to read text and a personal data assistant (PDA) to keep track of daily appointments at the hospital.

Occupational therapists with the Warrior Transition Brigade’s Occupational Therapy Work Education Program at Walter Reed, assess barriers service members may have and partner with assistive technology specialists to select appropriate accomodations to meet the desired goals. Together, they train Warriors in Transition (WIT) at Walter Reed in how to use the selected tools. The Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP), a Department of Defense program, provides service members with the devices that are theirs to keep.

The technology ranges from special keyboards with interchangeable overlays, to software that enlarges text up to 32 times the size of regular font. CAP also provides equipment such as a smartpen that records everything the user hears, writes and draws. With CAP, service members receive special joy sticks, touch pads and a series of switches, mounting devices and other accommodations to increase access for individuals who have dexterity disabilities, blind/low vision, deaf, hard of hearing, or have cognitive or communication disabilities.

 “Our role is to get the Warriors in Transition involved in internships and educational opportunities while they’re healing here at Walter Reed,” explained Sara Meisinger, chief of the WTB’s Occupational Therapy Work Education Program.  Meisinger explained a detailed assessment of needs and training is crucial for the complex patient population at Walter Reed, who face multiple challenges such as memory loss, decreased vision and dexterity limitations as a result of traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder and amputations.

McComber said assistive technology, “helped [him] get back and feel less like a patient, and more like a regular person.”

For the entire article, see: AT Helps Troops


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