People with physical disabilities often need to use devices such as a computer, power wheelchair, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) system, or EADL device to improve their independence and quality of life at home, school, and in the community. These technologies can have a tremendous impact on the user’s life, but can be very difficult to operate or “access”, especially for individuals who have difficulty using their hands. Some individuals may be able to control a device by using a different part of their body, or an extension of their body to type on a keyboard, control a mouse, make button selections, or drive a power wheelchair. Typing aids, mounts, key guards, and the use of specialized technology can have a significant impact on a user’s abilities in many cases. For some people with more severe physical disability, these methods of control are too difficult, and they must use one or more separate switches to operate the desired technology. Determining what body part an individual will use to operate a switch, the type of switches that will work the best, where to place them, and whether the user will need to use scanning programs can be very complex.
The General Motor Access Assessment focuses primarily on the posture, strength, range of motion, and movement capabilities of individuals with physical disabilities to determine their most efficient and effective method(s) for operating a specific technology. This assessment is sometimes an important precursor to more specific evaluations, such as the computer access, power mobility, AAC, and EADL evaluations. General Motor Access assessments are conducted by skilled occupational and physical therapists who are knowledgeable about the various methods and tools available for accessing devices and matching those methods and technologies to the user’s capabilities. Once the most efficient and effective method is identified, these therapists often collaborate with other professionals, such as speech therapists, to assist them in more specific evaluations.