Jacob Baker has benefitted from assistive technology on the farm.

Assistive technology to help families farm

The Ohio AgrAbility Program has a mission to promote independence for people in agriculture who want to continue to farm after experiencing a disabling condition. The program’s goal is to provide education, resources and technical assistance to those individuals and their families so they may continue to do what they love to do, farm.

Injuries are not limited to those that occur while working on the farm. Some injuries happen away from the property or are a result of an illness. Regardless of an injury, chronic arthritis, short- or long-term surgery impairments, or other health-related problems, the Ohio AgrAbility program can assist production agricultural workers in many situations.

This program conducts on-site assessments for the worker to determine how he or she performs their job and helps find solutions that will meet their needs. Often those solutions involve some form of assistive technology. Assistive technology includes any kind of device, modification, or service that will help a person with a disabling condition work and live more independently. It may be low or high tech, expensive or inexpensive. Ultimately it helps the person complete a job that might otherwise be difficult or impossible.


Meet one of our younger Ohio AgrAbility friends

Jacob Baker, an 8th grader from northern Ohio, aspires to become a meteorologist. He likes competing in sled hockey tournaments throughout Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. He also works on his family’s dairy farm and shows cattle at the Columbiana, Carroll and Mahoning County fairs as well as the Ohio State Fair.

In 2009 Jacob was in a life-changing car crash, which cost him his mobility and took his mother’s life. Jacob was not supposed to walk again. But with determination and a strong family support system, he learned to walk using leg braces and forearm crutches. His grandfather heard about the Ohio AgrAbility program, and shortly thereafter, his family reached out to see what the program could offer.


An on-farm assessment

Charlie Landis, an Ohio AgrAbility Rural Rehabilitation Coordinator, visited the dairy farm and talked to Jacob’s family about the type of work he could do. Because of Jacob’s age, he didn’t qualify for Vocational Rehabilitation services. However, funds were available through the Ohio AgrAbility’s Endowment Fund from past contributions to the program. These funds were put to use to support this young man’s ability to continue working on the family farm.


Hand controls for farm equipment

The primary need for Jacob was to be able to operate farm equipment safely. A hand control conversion kit for the skid loader and hand controls for the farm tractors were installed and adjusted for Jacob. However not just for Jacob, all farm hands can continue to use these controls because they are not operator specific, and they do not adversely affect the performance of the machine. These after-market assistive technology devices are available for a variety of farm implements, and allow the operators full control of the equipment.

Jacob maintains his involvement in the family farm. He is an optimistic young man, who continues to grow and develop into a strong asset for the dairy. The Ohio AgrAbility program considers Jacob a good friend to the program, and sends him well wishes for his future pursuits.


Other assistive technology for farm workers

Besides hand controls, other innovative products are on the market to help make farm work easier and more productive. Products can include air-ride seats, suspensions, extended steps and mirrors, and barn or shop floor mats. Many of these products can be purchased directly through local equipment dealers and farm supply stores.

The Ohio AgrAbility Program continues to look for ways to serve Ohio farmers and their families with technical or rehabilitative assistance. If you, a family member or neighbor could benefit from their services; or if you are a vendor with a product idea or specialty practice; or if you have ideas to share please contact their team directly.

The Ohio AgrAbility website is www.agrability.osu.edu. To speak to a team member, feel free to call (614) 247-7681.

Agriculture entails a lot of hard work. Making it easier for farmers to do what they love is the ultimate goal of this program. Be it a large-scale or a small everyday type of problem, assistive technology trouble-shooting is a natural part of AgrAbility’s mission to serve Ohio farmers.


Dee Jepsen, Associate Professor for Agricultural Safety and Health, can be reached at 292-6008 or jepsen.4@osu.edu.  This column is provided by the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering in collaboration with Easter Seals TriState.



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