Omololu Majekodunmi: Addressing Low Vision
Omololu Majekodunmi, an occupational therapy student at Howard University in Washington, DC, saw low vision as an interesting emerging practice area and did an independent study on this topic.
As part of the criteria, Omololu volunteered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC, which has extensive technology to enable patrons who are blind or have low vision to magnify print materials with a closed circuit TV system, enlarge computer screen content using magnifying software, convert text to synthesized speech, or use a screen-reading computer program with synthesized speech. He volunteered for 2 hours each week from August to the end of the semester in December.
To get started, the volunteer coordinator showed Omololu how to use the equipment, then Omololu was able to train the library patrons. He says that initially the volunteer coordinator didn’t know why an occupational therapy student would be interested in low vision, or why this would be an appropriate match, but by the end he saw the value of an occupational therapy perspective.
Omololu says that although all the volunteers had a list of prompts to use when teaching patrons, if a patron still didn’t understand, many of them would get frustrated. In contrast, Omololu was able to look at the whole person to see what approach would work best for that particular individual. For example one patron was having trouble conceptualizing how to click to the left side of the screen. He had mentioned that he loved astronomy, so Omololu suggested clicking on “the west side.” Problem solved! He also is aware of cultural issues and differences and was able to use this knowledge to approach patrons in a way that worked best for them.
Omololu worked extensively with one patron in particular, an older gentleman who had attended business school at Northwestern University but was computer illiterate. When he asked Omololu if occupational therapy was like physical therapy, Omololu said yes, but that OT takes it to the next level by addressing pragmatic, functional skills. He explained that if he were a practicing occupational therapist he could go to the man’s home to improve things like contrast and other ways to make his daily activities easier. In addition to teaching him how to use the low-vision technology, Omololu taught him to use e-mail and work on general computer literacy, which is an essential skill in today’s society. By the time they were done working together the man was selling his car online. Omololu noted that the outcomes seem small but “they are so important to the patrons.”
This gentleman and other patrons Omololu worked with commented that an occupational therapy approach to low vision was different from anything they had experienced. Most attended some sort of vision clinic where the emphasis was on what they could or could not see—no one had ever focused on how to use their existing vision to function more easily—or how to live life to its fullest.
In addition to volunteering at the adaptive services library, Omololu continues to serve his community as an OT champion in the following ways:
Backpack Awareness: Omololu and his classmates went to Orr Elementary School in Southeast Washington, DC, to teach taught students the do’s and don’ts of packing and wearing their backpack. They also spoke with parents, highlighting the role of an occupational therapist in the school system. They weighed the children’s backpacks, and if they weighed more than 10% of the student’s body weight, the student was given a handout to share with his or her parents.
Site visit to the Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN) program: KEEN is a free program dedicated to helping children with disabilities play sports. For his Health and Wellness course, Omololu was instructed to visit a site and promote the role of occupational therapy. After observing, Omololu made a color brochure with suggestions on how KEEN participants would benefit from OT, which he shared it with the coordinator. Suggestions included better training for the volunteers, using social play to target issues like age-appropriate ball throwing (e.g., teaching the older kids to throw the ball overhand), and making sure low functioning children did not sit on the sidelines. He also recommended having paraprofessionals do more hands-on work with these children to make sure they got the most out of the day.
Participated in the Food2Feed campaign: Omololu held a canned food drive to collect food for the holiday season. He and the members of the DC Black Occupational Therapy Caucus (DCBOTC) were interviewed by 96.3 WHUR in a live broadcast. Omololu explained the philanthropic mission of the DCBOTC, as well as explaining to the host of the radio station what an occupational therapist does!