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:

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...

Canadians’ Occupations during Viral Infection Days (COVID): A new normal?

ICORD researchers Drs Borisoff, Miller and Mortenson are hoping to gain an understanding of the changes in daily and social activities for Canadians with the advent of COVID-19 and how people are adjusting to these changes. Participation in this study Read More...

Developing web-based counselling services for family caregivers

User-centred development of web-based counselling services for family caregivers ICORD researcher Ben Mortenson and his team are currently recruiting family caregivers of people with disabilities (including SCI) residing in BC to take part in a user-centred design process to develop Read More...

User perceptions of power-assist devices for manual wheelchairs

Power-assist devices are electric add-ons that can be attached to manual wheelchairs. These devices may enable users to access diverse environments, increase their sense of choice and independence, and conserve energy. In this study, participants will engage in remote one-on-one Read More...

Modified rowing machine for cardiovascular exercise

ICORD researchers Drs. Bonita Sawatzky, Ben Mortenson, Carolyn Sparrey, and Jaimie Borisoff want to compare the energetic and physiologic impact of adaptive rowing systems to traditional hand cycle exercise. A secondary objective of this study is to explore the usability 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...

How do people use their wheelchairs? Exploring bout mobility patterns among Canadians

UPDATE: Sept 18 2017 If you want to try a week with the latest version of the Smartdrive, there is an option within this study to do a Smartdrive comparison (one week without the Smartdrive and one week with it). 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

  • Auger, C et al.. 2020. Older adults' use of an on-line decision support system: Usability and stability of assistive technology recommendations.. Assist Technol. doi: 10.1080/10400435.2020.1815251.
  • Prescott, M, Miller, WC, Routhier, F, Mortenson, WB. 2020. Factors affecting the activity spaces of people who use mobility devices to get around the community.. Health Place. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2020.102375.
  • Smith, EM, Mortenson, WB, Mihailidis, A, Miller, WC. 2020. Understanding the task demands for powered wheelchair driving: a think-aloud task analysis.. Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. doi: 10.1080/17483107.2020.1810335.
  • Mortenson, WB, Pysklywec, A, Chau, L, Prescott, M, Townson, A. 2020. Therapists' experience of training and implementing an exoskeleton in a rehabilitation centre.. Disabil Rehabil. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2020.1789765.
  • Eshraghi, M, Sawatzky, B, Mortenson, WB. 2020. Feasibility of a peer-led, manual wheelchair maintenance skills training programme to improve wheelchair efficiency, and knowledge and confidence about wheelchair maintenance: a pre-post study.. Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. doi: 10.1080/17483107.2020.1749897.
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