Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program fellow joins Department of Occupational Therapy faculty
Michael Bermudez, EdD, OTR, sees occupational therapy as a means for social justice for people with disabilities. His tools? Circuit boards, code and 3D printers, to name a few.
This July, Bermudez brought his research interest in assistive technology to The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, where he joined the Department of Occupational Therapy as an assistant professor.Ěý
Bermudezâ€™s research interests include creating assistive devices for people with disabilities using technology such as makerspaces, circuit boards, simple coding, smartphone apps and wearable technology.Ěý
â€śMakerspace doesnâ€™t have to be high tech,â€ť he said. â€śIt starts with tools: Being here at the health science center in the 90s, we were creating crafts using tools to create things. Itâ€™s learning by creating. Now 30 years later we have all this technology. We can use that as well.â€ť
Bermudez envisions cultivating a community of collaborators in â€śaffinity spacesâ€ť â€” that is, a place where people with related ideas can share ideas and build, together.
â€śI want to demystify technology,â€ť he said, noting that he has worked with students to overcome their trepidation about using technology and plans to eventually bring the makerspace approach to students at the university.
Using assistive technologies to enable social justice in OT
Bermudez recently returned to the U.S. in January after studying and working in Uganda for six months as a 2022-2023 Fulbright U.S. Scholar. While in Uganda, Bermudez taught gerontology and health promotion to masterâ€™s students in the Department of ŃÇÖŢÎŢÂë Rehabilitation and Special Needs at Kyambogo University and conducted occupational therapy screenings for children with disabilities in marginalized communities. With the assistance of occupational therapy students, he also created virtual community-based projects teaching topics including ergonomics and stroke management for university students and occupational therapists in Uganda.Ěý
â€śI was very amazed at the kind of dynamics I saw there,â€ť he said of the university. â€śThe research was about makerspace and how students there in the community can use these technologies to build and invent adaptive technologies for people with disabilities in Uganda.â€ť
The students he worked with in Uganda, some of whom have disabilities and participate in community-based rehabilitation, built 3D-printed models with Braille, including animal figures, geometric shapes and adaptive equipment for people with arthritis, such as a long-handled toothbrushes for people with less grip.Ěý
â€śI wanted to create more access to technology, and I wanted (the students) to feel a sense of empowerment that despite these being novel equipment, that they can learn by creating,â€ť he said.
Coming back to where his OT path began
Bermudez is a graduate of the School of Health Professions, having earned his Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from ŃÇÖŢÎŢÂë Science Center San Antonio before going on to earn both a masterâ€™s in educational technology and a Doctorate of Education in educational technology leadership from New Jersey City University in Jersey City, New Jersey. He most recently taught gerontology, physical rehabilitation, evidence-based practice and scientific writing in the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Scranton.Ěý
Since 2000, Bermudez has practiced as an occupational therapist in adult physical rehabilitation, geriatric and pediatric settings in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.Ěý
Bermudez is analyzing the data from his Uganda research and will be presenting a workshop and two abstracts on that work in October at the European Network of Occupational Therapy in Higher Education Annual Meeting in Oviedo, Spain.
His proposal has been accepted to present at the American Occupational Therapy Association national conference on circuit boards, coding and creating adaptive technologies for people with disabilities.