Dr. Ben Mortenson

Principal Investigator

B.Sc. [Occupational Therapy] (University of Alberta), M.Sc. [Rehabilitation Sciences] (University of British Columbia), Ph.D. [Rehabilitation Sciences] (University of British Columbia), Post-Doctoral Fellowships (University of Montreal & Simon Fraser University)
Associate Professor, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia
Adjunct Professor, Simon Fraser University


Research Interests

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Dr. Mortenson has always had an interest in helping people, and so his early career healthcare is not surprising. After practicing as an occupational therapist for seven years, he returned to academia to address his clinical questions and find answers that could be used to provide more evidenced-based healthcare.

Dr. Mortenson’s research is focused on aging, social participation, outcome measurement, and assistive technology. His studies include four main overlapping populations: individuals with SCI, assistive technology users, residents of residential care facilities, and both formal and informal caregivers. He is currently conducting studies exploring the effects of assistive technology interventions on users and their informal caregivers and exploring the experiences of power mobility users over time. He is starting a study to see if better scooter training will improve the social participation and safety of users.

Dr. Mortenson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Simon Fraser University and is a Principal Investigator at ICORD. He completed his B.Sc. in Occupational Therapy at the University of Alberta, followed by his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science at the University of British Columbia. He completed his post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Montreal, funded by a CIHR grant, and a post-doctoral fellowship at the Simon Fraser University, funded by a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship Award.

Dr. Mortenson’s research has important implications. His work on aging with SCI is relevant to a growing population. His research on wheeled mobility and social participation is applicable to individuals with a wide variety of diagnoses including SCI. Given the issue of caregiver burn-out, his findings may help find ways to improve the quality of their lives and help those they assist remain in their homes. By gaining a better understanding of the implications of assistive technology training and interventions, Dr. Mortenson hopes to increase the social participation of individuals who use these devices and to enable them to do activities that give meaning to their lives. Dr. Mortenson’s favourite aspects of working in ICORD is the collegial and supportive nature of everyone who works here. Dr. Mortenson deeply appreciates being surrounded by people with a common interest: to help people with SCI. Though his peers’ avenues of research may differ, everyone contributes to that shared objective. He also enjoys the view of the North Shore mountains above downtown Vancouver from his office window!

Currently recruiting for:

Pelvic floor muscle training & SCI: what do you know?

Pelvic floor muscle training is widely prescribed to able-bodied people, yet is rarely prescribed to people with SCI despite the potential benefits of this treatment. In this study, researchers in Dr. Tania Lam’s lab are interested in hearing from people Read More...

Understanding experiences of coping and managing health and function among people with SCI

Coping and managing health in the community is a prerequisite to quality of life when living with a SCI. This process can be difficult and it is influenced by factors which are not always understood from the perspectives of individuals Read More...

Understanding the experiences of individuals with incomplete spinal cord injury who can walk

There is a growing number of individuals who have incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI) who are able to walk. Having an incomplete SCI comes with challenges including living with a potentially hidden disability, and there are questions about the suitability Read More...

Intersectional assistive technology

Researchers in Dr. Ben Mortenson’s lab are interested in the experiences of people with mobility or physical disability (including SCI) obtaining and using assistive technology (AT), which is any tool that helps with activities of daily living such as wheelchairs, Read More...

Perceived eHealth literacy among individuals with SCI

The purpose of this study is to determine the self-perceived eHealth literacy levels in SCI populations. The following research questions will be examined in this study: (1) What is the self-perceived level of eHealth literacy in community-dwelling SCI populations? (2) Read More...

Evaluating the Wheeled Autonomy of Wheeled Mobility Device Users

Researchers in Drs. Jaimie Borisoff and Ben Mortenson’s labs want to identify and prioritize how certain features of WMADs, such as speed and maneuverability, influence the personal autonomy of users in different contexts. Study participants will take a 20-25 minutes Read More...

SCI Self-Management Mobile App

This study will evaluate the effectiveness of a self-management intervention that features the use of the self-management app to help people with SCI attain self-selected goals and improve personal management of health. You will be asked to complete a series Read More...

Recent Collaborations:

Dr. Mortenson is involved with the Canwheel team, which has fourteen investigators from a wide variety of fields (including ICORD researchers Dr. William Miller and Dr. Bonnie Sawatzky) from six universities across Canada with. The Canwheel projects are designed to provide a comprehensive, systematic, and unified approach to enhance the mobility of older adult wheelchair users.

He is also involved with SCIRE, Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Evidence, along with Dr. Miller and Dr. Janice Eng. SCIRE is a collaboration project between scientists, clinicians, and consumers, which aims to translate existing research knowledge into a concise and comprehendible format for health professionals.

Dr. Mortenson is collaborating with Dr. Louise Demers from the University of Montreal and the Consortium for Assistive Technology Outcomes Research (CATOR) group ona study to look at the effect of assistive technology interventions on users and their informal caregivers. . He is currently working with ICORD researcher Dr. Jaimie Borisoff on exoskeleton research and with Dr. Lee Kirby on scooter research.

Major Findings:

Wheelchairs in residential care facilities can both enable and restrain residents’ mobility and participation, according to a study done in 2012 by Dr. Mortenson and his colleagues. Quantitative work by Dr. Mortenson also suggests that improving residents’ wheelchair skills can improve the residents’ mobility and social participation.

As well, it was found that providing interventions on assistive technology users is beneficial to both the user and their formal and informal caregivers.

Techniques employed in the labs:

  • Semi-structured interviews
  • Standardized measurements of cognition
  • Participant observations
  • Randomized control trials
  • Mixed methods research

Affiliation with organizations and societies:

  • Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of British Columbia
  • GF Strong Rehabilitation Research Program
  • Canadian Association on Gerontology (CAG)
  • Canadian Society of Occupational Scientists (CSOS)
  • Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT)


Some of Dr. Mortenson’s recent major awards and accomplishments include:

  • Legacy Travel Award (Canadian Association of Gerontology, 2013)
  • Post-doctoral Scientific Prize (CIHR, 2012)
  • Banting Post-Doctoral Fellowship (2012-2014)
  • CIHR New Investigator Award (2016)

Trainee Awards

Year Name Award
2019 Gurkaran Singh 3rd prize for Junior category poster, ICORD trainee symposium
2016 Emma Smith Fellowship award (3 year duration) & Alzheimer Society Research Program (ASRP) funding  (CIHR & Alzheimer Society)
2016 Kristine Theurer UBC’s nominee to the SSHRC Talent Award competition (SSHRC)
2017 Alison Williams CIHR Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s Award (CIHR)
2017 Alison Williams Rising Star Award (VCHRI)
2017 Dominique Gélinas-Bronsard Best poster award (Centre of research in interdisciplinary rehabilitation (CRIR) Student Colloquium)

Current Lab Members

Masters Students Ph.D. Students Occupational Therapy Students Research Staff
Gurkaran Singh* Lisa Simpson Polly Tan Jodine Perkins
Sharon Jang* Michael Prescott Nova Garside Jose Arias Bustamante
Ethan Simpson Riley Louie Hannah Allen Karen Boley
Bahareh Kardeh Oladele Atovebi Dasom Kim Ori Ben-Ari
Murveena Jeawon Eric Chau Rosemary Cheung
Dam Mazur* Adam Nishi Tania Jagpal
Pauline Koh Jake Harris Rachel Yiu
Matt Littlewood Gillian Bever
Nicole Hocking Sophia Sauvage
Chelsea Johnson Tracy Xu
Alle Wood Alice Xu
Angela Eugenio Sophie Ebsary
Nathan Ip
Maggie Mei
Brittany Langereis
Sarah Semeniuk
Ashley Stewart
Rachel Wong

* has graduated in the past year

Recent publications

  • Hoogenes, B et al.. 2021. Evidence on definitions, concepts, outcome instruments, and interventions for chronic fatigue in spinal cord injury: a scoping review protocol.. JBI Evid Synth. doi: 10.11124/JBIES-20-00214.
  • Wong, RN et al.. 2021. Exploring exercise participation and the usability of the adaptive rower and arm crank ergometer through wheelchair users' perspectives.. Disabil Rehabil. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2021.1894245.
  • Hernandez, N et al.. 2021. Scoping Review of Healthcare Literature on Mobile, Wearable, and Textile Sensing Technology for Continuous Monitoring.. J Healthc Inform Res. doi: 10.1007/s41666-020-00087-z.
  • Mortenson, WB et al.. 2021. Correlates of self-reported Wheelchair Skills Test Questionnaire scores of new users of mobility scooters: a cross-sectional study.. Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. doi: 10.1080/17483107.2021.1874065.
  • Chau, E, Nishi, A, Kristalovich, L, Holowaychuk, A, Mortenson, WB. Establishing the Predictive Validity of the ScanCourse for Assessing On-Road Driving Performance.. Am J Occup Ther. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2021.041608.
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