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 is not accepting summer students for 2017. 

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:

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...

Scooter driving challenges

We are interested in determining which activities are difficult for new users of motorized mobility scooters (MMS), which contexts may make these activities challenging or unsafe, and which strategies can help users to complete these activities. This study will involve participating 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
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
Mehdi Eshraghi* Lisa Simpson Ashley Menzies* Jodine Perkins
Sharon Jang Kristine Theurer* Carolyn Mazan* Jose Arias Bustamante
Gurkaran Singh Beena Parappilly Alice Wilson* Karen Boley
Dolapa Owonuwa* Emma Smith* Darien Merrick* Ori Ben-Ari
Michael Prescott Kyle Hillman* Jessica Chow
Riley Louie Jacquelyn Webber* Katherine Chow
Oladele Atoyebi Jennifer Wuschke* Sarah Mohn
Polly Tang Rosemary Cheung
Nova Garside Tania Jagpal
Hannah Allen Rachel Yiu
Dasom Kim Gillian Bever
Eric Chau Sophia Sauvage
Adam Nishi Sophie Ebsary
Jake Harris
Matt Littlewood
Nicole Hocking
Chelsea Johnson
Allie Wood
Angela Eugenio
Nathan Ip
Maggie Mei
Brittany Langereis
Sarah Semeniuk
Ashley Stewart
Rachel Wong

* has graduated in the past year

Current Opportunities In the Lab

Dr. Mortenson is not accepting volunteers for summer 2017.

Recent publications

  • Labbé, D, Mahmood, A, Miller, WC, Mortenson, WB. 2020. Examining the Impact of Knowledge Mobilization Strategies to Inform Urban Stakeholders on Accessibility: A Mixed-Methods study.. Int J Environ Res Public Health. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17051561.
  • Merrick, D et al.. 2020. All aboard: users' experiences of adapted paddling programs.. Disabil Rehabil. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2020.1725153.
  • Bird, ML, Mortenson, WB, Eng, JJ. 2020. Evaluation and facilitation of intervention fidelity in community exercise programs through an adaptation of the TIDier framework.. BMC Health Serv Res. doi: 10.1186/s12913-020-4919-y.
  • Louie, DR et al.. 2020. Exoskeleton for post-stroke recovery of ambulation (ExStRA): study protocol for a mixed-methods study investigating the efficacy and acceptance of an exoskeleton-based physical therapy program during stroke inpatient rehabilitation.. BMC Neurol. doi: 10.1186/s12883-020-1617-7.
  • Menzies, A, Mazan, C, Borisoff, JF, Mattie, JL, Mortenson, WB. 2020. Outdoor recreation among wheeled mobility users: perceived barriers and facilitators.. Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. doi: 10.1080/17483107.2019.1710772.
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