Friday, January 11, 2013

The Vision in Action: Increasing Mobility Internationally through Occupational Therapy

By Kecia Coker, (OTD Cand.), MA, OTR/L, OTAC Communications Committee 
Have you ever noticed the presence or lack of community resources when you travel to a new place? Do you also notice the presence or lack of universal design features that either include or exclude people with disabilities?

If so, it’s probably because being an occupational therapy (OT) practitioner is something you can’t turn off--even on vacation!  On a trip to Indonesia to visit and support her son’s geo tourism business, Diane Mayfield, Ed.D., OTR/L couldn’t help but notice numerous people living with disabilities that were treatable or could be improved with the use of adaptive equipment. The experience had such an impact on Dr. Mayfield that she returned to the United States with a passion to volunteer her time and share her occupational therapy expertise with the international community.  

In 2006, Dr. Mayfield helped to establish Access Life International Inc. (ALI), a non-profit organization. ALI provides water purification systems and mobility aids such as wheelchairs, walkers and ramps to communities in need.  The organization primarily assists those living in Bali, Indonesia, though they hope to expand to additional developing countries in the future.

Here’s how it works: the ALI organization trains and employs local Indonesian residents to assist people with physical disabilities. ALI employees videotape interested participants with disabilities in their living environments and send the videos to Dr. Mayfield and her Australian OT colleagues to review. The OTs assess the occupational limitations demonstrated in the video and then consult with ALI staff in Indonesia to develop a plan.  ALI staff then builds, and/or delivers mobility aids and provides training on the use of these aids to individuals and caretakers. The interventions delivered work to improve the person’s mobility, function, and access to an improved quality of life.

Dr. Mayfield’s work demonstrates the OTAC Vision in action (adopted from the AOTA Centennial Vision), “We envision that occupational therapy is a powerful, widely recognized, science-driven and evidence-based profession with a globally connected and diverse workforce meeting society's occupational needs.” By increasing public awareness of OT through volunteer work, she is also an OT Leader that Shines!

Dr. Mayfield has particularly focused her leadership on promoting OT through a globally- connected workforce and by meeting the occupational needs of individuals in a developing country.  In addition to providing remote consultation services for ALI and fundraising on behalf of the organization, Dr. Mayfield travels to Bali 2 weeks out of the year to provide hands-on assistance with ALI’s operations.  In her role as Academic Fieldwork Coordinator at California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), Dr. Mayfield has worked to establish international fieldwork placement sites. As a classroom instructor, she regularly encourages OT students and graduates to volunteer their expertise in the global community.  Dr. Mayfield says, “A successful person is a person that gives back and volunteers.”  Many CSUDH OT alumni have responded to Dr. Mayfield’s encouragement and have become OT Leaders that Shine through international volunteer work in countries such as Ghana, Ireland, and Romania. 

Dr. Mayfield describes herself as, “an advocate for people with disabilities who are unable to speak for themselves.”  In addition to being an advocate, she has also demonstrated the following leadership qualities along her journey:  

·         Passion for her work.

·         Persistence and determination when faced with challenges.  

·         Adaptability when things don’t go as planned. 

·         Respect for various cultural perspectives when developing partnerships domestically and abroad.

If you too have found your passion in international volunteer work, let us know! 

For more information about ALI or to learn how you can get involved, visit   Additional international and domestic volunteer opportunity websites can be found on this blog. Click on the Volunteer Website Resources in the “pages” section and connect to your inner OT Leader that Shines!

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