Program News

OT student doing research with child


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Occupational Therapy
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Program News

Ongoing Facelifts for the 2150 Lab 

The OT Program recently received a $30,000 Instructional Lab Modernization grant from the School of Education to pay for structural and equipment upgrades for the 2150 lab.

“We’re so excited to see things coming together for this simulated clinic lab space,” said clinical instructor Debbie Bebeau. “The students and the university have been so supportive with making this a great space, not only for student practice and learning but to work with real clients as well.”

The OT curriculum must provide students with training in innovative practice techniques and technologies, including the use of splinting equipment, mat tables, floor mats, and virtual reality and exercise equipment. But technology changed faster than the program’s ability to outfit the labs to teach current occupational therapy practice and the lab had essentially become a storage space.

The 2150 lab needed a makeover.

So, two years ago, OT staff started a campaign to renovate the lab and create a space for students to learn the latest advancements in real-world OT.

“That was a nice piece of real estate and it couldn’t just sit there,” said John Paine, facilities director for the UW School of Education. “That, to me, was an area that cried for support.”

Program Coordinator Mary Schneider managed to squeeze some funds out of the OT program budget to have the room cleaned out and painted. And the program donated the old but working saws, drills and other shop equipment to the Physical Plant.

Following the lead from the 2007 MSOT graduating class that gave equipment and supplies to the lab as a class gift, the 2009 class raised money for equipment.

“We felt that it was very important that the program have facilities to better fit students learning needs,” said Lauren Rhodes, MSOT class of 2009.

The class raised $2,000 and helped Bebeau pick out several pieces of equipment for the lab, including a weight rack with mirror, a shoulder ladder, a goniometer, and an upper extremity ergometer.

“It was a great feeling to give something back to the program that future students will be able to learn from for many years to come,” Rhodes said.

The new lab includes multiple teaching stations with plans for accessible storage in each area. Staff and students expect to use the remodeled lab for continuing education courses, faculty and student research, and as an interdisciplinary treatment space for occupational, physical and speech therapists.

“When a unit shows that type of drive, you have to reward them,” said Paine, who gave the final approval on the lab renovation grant.

The grant will pay for ceiling and wall repairs, removal of outdated equipment, ventilation and lighting replacements, and other utility upgrades.

“The grant pretty much takes care of getting the room ready, but we are far from having the updated technologies or equipment that we need to provide students with the skills they will need in the real world,” Bebeau said, adding that some of those needs include Dynavision, simulated driving equipment, Wii, voice-activated computer software, and software for computerized documentation.

Please contact Debbie Bebeau at to learn how you can support the final stages of the project.

Assistive Technology Expo 2009

Monica KamalRossa emphasizes the importance of assistive technologies for persons with disabilities by asking a question: “How many of you can live without your shoes every day, every season – yes, even in winter?”

KamalRossa, coordinator of Madison's Spinal Cord Injury Group, explained, “Our canes, wheelchairs, and computer systems are how we navigate to get around to school, work, and our places of worship.”

Imagine trying to live completely without a telephone, she said. “Without voice-command software and other technology, some persons with disabilities can't communicate at all.”

“Assistive technology is a foundation to the quality of life that almost all persons with disabilities require,” said KamalRossa, who injured her spinal cord in a 2001 skiing accident and uses wheelchairs to get around. Such technologies enable more people to participate in their communities, which benefits the entire community, she said.

KamalRossa was the lead organizer for the 25th annual Assistive Technology Expo held Wednesday, Nov. 4 in the Engineering Centers Building on the UW-Madison campus. The annual event is free and open to the general public.

The Expo showcases some of the latest advances in technology that can offer people with disabilities new opportunities to participate in school, employment and community life. Roger O. Smith, professor of occupational therapy from the University of Wisconsin –Milwaukee’s College of Health Sciences, will deliver the keynote address.

"We are very excited to have UW students from different departments showcasing their projects," KamalRossa said. "New this year will be a Health and Wellness panel with four people with disabilities discussing adaptive kayaking, sit skiing with the Birkebeiner last year, hand cycling and adaptive camping.”

The Expo debuted on October 18, 1985, at Union South. The Southwest Wisconsin Rehabilitation Association (SWRA) and the Rehabilitation Psychology Program in UW-Madison’s Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education (RPSE) had been seeking a project that could benefit rehabilitation professionals, people with disabilities, and the community in general, said Norm Berven, professor of rehabilitation psychology.

About two dozen organizations that marketed or used technology related to disability and rehabilitation participated in the inaugural event, which was jointly sponsored by SWRA, RPSE and the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), said Berven, who coordinated the Expo for 20 years. Since that first year, more organizations have participated, and the number of sponsors has grown, he said.

"Technology has changed dramatically since 1985, when Apple IIe computers were among the most widely used, and cell phones, the Internet, and GPS technology were still years away," Berven said. "Advances in technology have opened many possibilities for people with disabilities, and it is these advances that are highlighted at the Expo."

Expo oganizers have always sought to attract a diverse audience, he said.

Several hundred people typically attend each year, including classes from other colleges and grade schools, faculty, staff and students from rehabilitation-related majors (e.g., rehabilitation psychology, occupational therapy, communicative disorders, special education, physical therapy, nursing), engineering, computer science and technology.

From the general public, many people with disabilities and their family members come to learn about advances in technology that might be of benefit to them.

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