AgrAbility helps Nebraska Farmers with Limitations

AgrAbility helps Nebraska Farmers with Limitations

October 17, 2008

Nebraska AgrAbility, a partnership of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and Easter Seals Nebraska, helps Nebraska farmers and ranchers with disabilities find assistive technologies that will help them get back to work, said Sharry Nielsen, Extension Educator focused on farm safety in west central Nebraska.

Extension provides a local gateway for Nebraskans who have had an injury or disabling illness, Nielsen said, and would like to learn how to work with a disability.

"It's important for ag producers to know they can return to their jobs with proper assistive technology," said Rod Peterson, Nebraska AgrAbility Rural Rehabilitation Specialist.

Peterson said that the first thing he does when he meets a new client is to get to know the individual and the operation. He learns everything he can about the disability and how it limits the client. He visits the farm or ranch and sits down at the kitchen table with the client. He asks about tasks that have to be performed.

After the initial interview, he goes outside with the client and watches him or her perform those tasks so he can see how the client is limited. Based on these assessments, Peterson makes a recommendation. Some tasks may have to be reassigned, but more often, Peterson can recommend something that will allow the client to do the work.

Peterson serves clients with any kind of disability from minor arthritis to quadriplegia.

"We have clients who have MS and those who have back injuries; we serve anyone who has a disability that interferes with farm or ranch work," he said.

The largest number of requests is for help accessing equipment. The first step onto the tractor may require an additional step, new steps, or a lift.

The assessment may indicate a need for a different tool or a modification to an existing one. It might indicate a major adaptive device that helps get the job done.

For more information about assistive technologies for farmers and ranchers, call Peterson at (800) 471-6425, Sharry Nielsen at (308) 832-0645 or your local extension office.