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
New Investigator, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2016-2021)
2021 recipient of the Award for Innovative Practice from the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapy.


Research Interests

; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;

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 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. Dr. Mortenson leads a study “Providing Accessible ReCreation Outdoors: User-driven Research on Standards (PARCOURS)” to inform the development of accessibility standards via a 3-year Federal grant (Accessibility Canada; 2021-2024). He is the principal investigator of a 7-year (2020-2026), interprovincial, SSHRC Partnership Grant entitled, “A Partnership for Improving Mobility, Access and Participation (MAP) Among People with Disabilities”. This was the first SSHRC Partnership awarded to anyone in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC. He has or has held over $7M in funding as a principal investigator (PI) or co-PI and almost $50M as co-investigator.

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:

Does exercise at home or a gym offer better outcomes for people with SCI?

A feasibility study Since adaptive cardiovascular equipment is typically not available, ICORD researchers have created a relatively inexpensive rowing machine (AROW) that can be set up in a home or local gym. They want to know what setting is the Read More...

Adapted rowing ergs: SCI accessible exercise in the community

A comparative usability sub-study Graduate student researchers at UBC, under the supervision of researchers at Simon Fraser University, the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and UBC, are conducting interviews (online and in-person) to get feedback about adapted rowing (aROW) and Read More...

Designing an accessible website for a research partnership

Our MAP research partnership is working to create, test, and implement solutions to improve mobility, access, and participation among Canadians with mobility issues. To support community engagement and share our findings, we would like to create a website. The purpose 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...

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:

  • CAOT Award for Innovative Practice (Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, 2021)
  • Elite Reviewer for 2020 (Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2021)
  • 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
2021 Pegah Derakhshan Four Year Doctoral Fellowship (4YF) (UBC)
2020 Ethan Simpson Presentation Award (Rehabilitation Research Program Day)
2020 Farrukh Chishtie President’s Academic Excellence Initiative PhD Award (UBC)
2020 Miriam Manna Awarded best poster prize for day 2 of the 2020 (ICORD, Trainee Symposium)
2019 Gurkaran Singh 3rd prize for Junior category poster (ICORD, Trainee Symposium)
2018 Oladele Atoyebi Four Year Doctoral Fellowship (4YF) (UBC)
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

Undergraduate Students Masters Students Ph.D. Students Occupational Therapy Students Postdoctoral Fellows Research Staff
Miriam Manna Pauline Koh Oladele Atoyebi Bethany Hase Dr. Nolwenn Lapierre Jodine Perkins
Himani Prajapati Pegah Derakhshan Susanna Miller Dr. Alfiya Battalova Jose Arias Bustamante
Olatiowuluwase Olatona Tyrone Scales Angela Eugenio Karen Boley
Murveena Jeawon Farrukh Chishtie Allie Wood Ori Ben-Ari
Bahareh Kardeh Riley Louie* Rachel Wong Rosemary Cheung
Ethan Simpson Michael Prescott* Ashley Stewart Tania Jagpal
Loubna Kalaaji Lisa Simpson Rachel Yiu
Gina Tsai Gillian Bever
Sophia Sauvageau
Nicole  Banting
Alice Xu
Gurkaran Singh
Jennifer Zhang
Zach Lauzière-Fitzgerald
Nola Morey
Katrina Moorthy
Michelle Cheng
Ellie Gang
Brianna Tang

* has graduated in the past year

Recent publications

  • Guay, M, Drolet, MJ, Kühne, N, Talbot-Coulombe, C, Mortenson, WB. 2022. What If Deliberately Dying Is an Occupation?. Am J Occup Ther. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2022.047357.
  • Brooks, E et al.. 2022. 'Make the Most of the Situation'. Older Adults' Experiences during COVID-19: A Longitudinal, Qualitative Study.. J Appl Gerontol. doi: 10.1177/07334648221105062.
  • Theurer, KA et al.. 2022. "It Makes You Feel Good to Help!": An Exploratory Study of the Experience of Peer Mentoring in Long-Term Care.. Can J Aging. doi: 10.1017/S0714980821000611.
  • Best, KL, Mortenson, WB, Lauzière-Fitzgerald, Z, Smith, EM. 2022. Language matters! The long-standing debate between identity-first language and person first language.. Assist Technol. doi: 10.1080/10400435.2022.2058315.
  • Kirby, RL et al.. 2022. Qualitative experiences of new motorised mobility scooter users relevant to their scooter skills: a secondary analysis.. Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. doi: 10.1080/17483107.2022.2063422.
Search PubMed