In 1979, a farmer with a disability from Royal Center, Ind., contacted Purdue University's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) to ask for help in modifying his tractor so that he could continue farming. He had sustained a spinal cord injury in a truck crash that resulted in paraplegia.
For William Field, it was his first experience with rehabilitation engineering. Field, now Breaking New Ground (BNG) project leader, worked with some ABE students to figure out how to get the farmer back on his tractor.
This initial project developed into the BNG Resource Center. BNG's outreach program, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's AgrAbility Program, is the primary source of information on rehabilitation technology for more than half-a-million agricultural workers who have a disability. BNG offers many resources, including the following.
The Toolbox CD catalogs more than 770 assistive technology products that can make agriculture more accessible for individuals with physical limitations. Products are presented in a fact sheet format with added features that include videoclips, photographs and hyperlinks to contact information for product suppliers.
"Many agricultural workers with disabilities—and the professionals who serve them—are simply unaware of the help that is available," says Paul Jones, BNG program manager. "By making information available to more communities, we can significantly improve of the lives of farmers and ranchers with disabilities."
The Toolbox CD can be viewed at every Extension office in the United States, thanks to a grant from NEC Foundation of America. A printed catalog is also available. Visit www.bngtoolbox.info for more information or to order The Toolbox.
Gaining Ground on Arthritis
The Gaining Ground on Arthritis DVD, a collaborative program between BNG and the Arthritis Foundation, Indiana Chapter, provides information on how to help agricultural workers manage arthritis, protect their joints and modify tools.
The DVD premiered at a May fund-raising event in Rossville, Ind., where it was mainly filmed. All proceeds benefited the Arthritis Foundation, Indiana Chapter and helped distribute the DVD to farmers throughout state. The DVD can be viewed at all 92 Purdue Extension county offices. Find more information about or purchase the DVD by going to the "Arthritis and Agriculture" link on the BNG Web site www.breakingnewground.info.
Caregiving in the Heartland
When an agricultural worker has a disability, it affects the entire family, particularly caregivers. Rural caregivers face added difficulties due to geographical isolation; limited access to community services and resources; and the absence of accessible transportation systems.
This summer, BNG provided Caregiving in the Heartland, a workshop series to assist caregivers and the professionals who work with them. BNG partnered with critical-access hospitals and area agencies on aging to offer the workshops.
Check out additional resources online at www.breakingnewground.info.