Neurorehabilitation and ergonomics: Addressing the needs of the intellectually disabled in life and in the workplace


Authors: Gerry Leisman and Sharon Israely
Page Range: 277-298
Published in: Brain, Body, Cognition, 9#2 (2019)
ISSN: 2643-5683

Table of Contents


Ergonomics in the workplace for persons with intellectual disabilities (ID) requires multidisciplinary solutions. The paper provides general guidelines based on Human Factors and Neurocognitive function to adapt the workplace for persons with ID. The neurological basis for the design of adaptive aids is presented. Strategies are provided for creating environments for persons with ID to sequentially structure tasks to enable optimized implementation. Ergo-nomic principles including neurosensory functional processes will applied to social and vocational development activities, including adjustments and assistive devices for the work place and home environment. Low-tech information facilitation methods are discussed in how best to be employed for individuals with ID. Individuals with ID might have memory deficits including auditory processing, information retention or congenital hearing impairment. Methods will be provided that includes voice-activated recorders recording verbal instructions, computer generated checklists and cues to automate and post written or pictorial instructions on frequently used machines. Those with ID may be unable to count and measure. Calculator options are explored that include: large-display or talking calculators, counters or tickers, pre-counted or pre-measured posters or jigs, or talking tape measures. People with ID may be disorganized due to an inability to apply skills in different work environments, potentially ameliorated by color-coding items, computer generated A-B-C chart and using symbols instead of words. Also discussed is the employ-ment of key guards, alternative input devices, speech recognition and output systems and touch screens as well as the nature and use ergonomic tools, orthopedic writing and grip aids in the context of optimizing cognitive and motor functioning in the workplace. The paper discusses the reliance on higher brain regions for day-to-day activities while incorporating more effective utilization of the lower parts of the brain including the spine, basal ganglia and cerebellum (e.g., the relation between movement and cognition). The paper integrates the collective relevant findings from the Neurosciences, Cognitive Psychology and Ergonomics to provide a basis for the use and development of assistive aids – both low and high tech – for the ID.

Keywords: human factors and ergonomics, intellectual disability, cognitive impairment, assistive technology, Neurosciences, Executive function

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