Leigh combines assistive technologies with best practice clinical evidence to support people with disability to do what they want to do.
Leigh is an occupational therapist (OT) working with people with disability in the home and in the community.
His introduction to occupational therapy was as a nutrition and dietetics student doing casual shifts as a disability support worker. The experience made such a strong impression that he decided to transfer and study occupational therapy for four years.
“I started working as a disability support worker while studying. I used to take a young person with cerebral palsy to their occupational therapy appointments, where I saw the OT making an upper limb splint to support their hand. I was fascinated and knew this was something I wanted to do,” Leigh says.
Now in his second year working as part of Scope’s Focussed Therapy Services Team, Leigh’s focus is on what he calls assistive technology provision.
“Assistive technology is a very practical solution to the challenges of living with a disability and it can help people in different ways. It might be support with dressing, or support to access equipment to help with eating or support to modify a person’s environment.
“Part of my job is helping people modify their home to accommodate assistive technologies such as ceiling hoists and slings, or commodes, which support people to toilet and shower, and beds that need to be modified to suit a person’s requirements.”
Leigh analyses people’s needs and then collaborates with equipment suppliers to trial several options before deciding on the best solution. Follow-up education sessions with the person with disability and their support workers helps ensure the new equipment is used safely.
When Leigh tells people about his work as an allied health professional, he usually has to explain what an OT does.
“A lot of people aren’t sure what OTs do. I tell them we collaborate with people and their networks to support them to do what they need or want to do; usually in the areas of self-care, productivity and social participation, based on best practice clinical evidence.
“People sometimes assume working in the disability sector must be emotionally taxing. I think any role can be taxing. You’re trained to be able to respond in challenging situations and you’ve developed the skills to respond to people with empathy while managing your own self-care.”
Reflecting on what drives him and what might drive others to consider a career in disability support, Leigh says it’s all about making a difference in someone’s life.
“Supporting the person and seeing positive outcomes is what drives most health professionals.”
Leigh says it’s important to have empathy, respect, and a sense of connection. He offers this advice to those considering an allied health professional role in the disability sector:
“Speak to an allied health professional in the field you’re interested in. Ask them about the benefits and challenges of working in the disability sector to see if the role might suit you. And talk to a person with disability who has received support from an allied health professional. You might be inspired to hear about the difference you could make.”
Leigh’s story is one example from the many organisations and individuals dedicated to supporting people with disability in Victoria. Organisations may offer services and work opportunities that differ from those described here.
Reviewed 04 August 2021