CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Shirley Johnson has lived in her home in Salisbury since she was 3 months old.

“Everybody used to love to gather here,” Johnson said.

At 83, her arthritis and recent cancer diagnosis are making living in the home difficult. That’s where Occupational Therapist Carolyn Sithong comes in.


Carolyn Sithong has been an occupational therapist for 20 years

She created an app called "Home for Life Design" to teach students how to better evaluate client's homes

The app has gained her national recognition

The app is being used in 25 colleges and universities around the country 


For Sithong it’s an easy fix. 

“Disability is caused not by disease or aging, but by environments that aren’t accessible,” Sithong said. “Environments that don’t allow you to do the things you want to do.”

With 20 years of experience working with clients like Johnson, Sithong can spot issues in homes before she even walks through the door.

Experience she shares by teaching occupational therapy students at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

Sithong knows for new OTs, finding solutions for clients is not always easy. She wanted to come up with a solution that went beyond pen and paper. So she developed an app, called “Home for Life Design.”

“I had been doing it kind of manually on paper, and someone said you should just make an app for that right, and so I did,” Sithong said. “I thought, 'wow then everybody could have access to it.'"

Sithong’s goal is to make the process easy for OTs and their clients.

“I can share it with other students and inspire them to do the same thing,” Sithong said. “Because you’re always going to see a need from clients, and they can make a difference.”

All while providing relief and a smile for clients like Johnson.

Sithong’s app recently caught the attention of the American Occupational Therapy Association, which added her to its roster of fellows, the highest award the association can give occupational therapists.

More than 25 colleges and universities are also using the app.