Fish On! Adaptive Sport: Fishing

PA Trout fish photoFor many Pennsylvanians, the opening of fishing season is a sure sign that spring has arrived! It’s more than rods, hooks, willies, and worms. It’s a chance to be outdoors and spend some time on the open water.

Pennsylvania’s Regional Opening Day for 18 southeastern counties is April 2. Statewide Opening Day is April 16. More information is available from the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. 

For people with limited mobility, fishing may present some challenges. But with the right adaptive equipment and knowledge of resources available online, more fishermen (and women!) can get back to the sport they enjoy.

One challenge is finding an appropriate vessel. If someone who uses a wheelchair is able to transfer to a boat, he or she can sit in a regular seat with or without a lap belt for support. Many newer boats have fairly flat front decks that may help with the transition from pier to boat. Pontoon boats are also a good option given the openness on deck to accommodate a wheelchair.

Fishing pierFor those who don’t have access to a boat, a public access pier may be a fit. Most communities that build a pier have to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, which means it has to be accessible. But this may vary from place to place, and it might not be the case with older piers.

The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission has a list of fishing piers to provide angling opportunities for people with a disability. (Note: All areas may not be suitable for all disabilities.)

Safety around water is very important – for everyone. Pennsylvania state law requires that boaters have enough personal flotation devices for each person on board. It is highly encouraged to wear a life jacket when fishing from a boat or pier at all times. However, a life jacket won’t support the weight of the wheelchair, so unless a person needs a lap belt for support, it is recommended to keep their belt free when fishing or around water.

Fortunately, if you can get to where the fish are, adaptive fishing equipment exists to make fishing accessible and enjoyable. There are a host of companies and websites that offer adaptive fishing equipment or resources on how to configure your own gear. Rod holders are one example. All types of rod holders exist – ones that fasten to a boat or wheelchair, straps to the user’s chest, or which the user sits on – to hold the rod comfortably for those who have limited strength or no use of their hands. There are also numerous reels available to make casting and reeling accessible to everyone, including models that have a remote push-button or remote joystick operation. List of adaptive fishing suppliers.

Fishing is sport that can be enjoyed with family and friends, and one that can be adapted to a variety of different situations or abilities.

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AgrAbility PA Advisory Board holds annual meeting

The AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians Advisory Board held an annual meeting in State College, Pa., on March 17. The board met to review the project scope, responsibilities, and overall efforts of the grant-based program. The goal of the project is to assist farmers and agricultural workers in overcoming a disability or long-term health condition so that they may continue to work and remain in production agriculture in the state of Pennsylvania. The grant for the project was awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

AgrAbility PA (for short) is a statewide partnership between Penn State Extension, located at Pennsylvania State University, and UCP Central PA, a non-profit organization that works with individuals of all ages with all types of disabilities throughout central Pennsylvania. AgrAbility PA has been providing information and direct services to farmers and family members affected by disabilities or a long-term health condition since 1995.

The Advisory Board consists of experts and specialist from state agencies, organizations, and non-profits throughout Pennsylvania. Examples include PA Office of Rural Health, PA Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania Initiative on Assistive Technology, Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation, PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, PA Department of Agriculture, and PA Area Health Education Center. The board also consists of occupational and physical therapists, agriculturalists, and AgrAbility PA clients.

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The AgrAbility PA Advisory Board

Project highlights presented and discussed included AgrAbility PA outreach at events, efforts in marketing and use of social media, updates on former and current AgrAbility PA clients, overview of the year ahead, and new initiatives. A new initiative was presented called Bridging Horizons– a contest for high school students involved with FFA.

The project has continued to be a critical resource for farmers and agricultural workers in Pennsylvania with a disability or long-term health condition. Most commonly seen health challenges for AgrAbility PA clients include arthritis, back injuries, joint impairments, and mobility constraints. More than 60 percent are a direct result of an incident or the overall physical nature of work on the farm. Many AgrAbility PA clients work on dairy farms, as it is the largest agricultural industry in Pennsylvania, but more and more clients are seeking resources and support from other farming operations. Clients range in age from 18 to late sixties, with the average Pennsylvania farmer being 55 years old. Common equipment accommodations include using utility vehicles, making tractor modifications, and changing feeding practices. The PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation, Ag Choice Farm Credit, and the Farm Service Agency largely provide funding for these accommodations.

“This project has undoubtedly made a positive impact and has certainly improved the lives of farmers throughout Pennsylvania for more than 20 years,” said Dr. Connie Baggett, AgrAbility PA Project Director and Associate Professor of Agricultural and Extension Education at Penn State University.

The Advisory Board will continue to provide feedback and recommendations on the project throughout the year. The grant is operational for a four-year period with the option to renew. The current grants runs through September 2017.

For more information about AgrAbility PA, visit www.AgrAbilityPa.org, email AgrAbility@psu.edu, or call (814) 867-5288. Stay in touch with news, events, and information by following AgrAbility PA on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and on Twitter @AgrAbilityPA.

Looking back at our travels in February

Tree bud frostPunxsutawney Phil may have predicted an early spring on Feb. 2, but most of Pennsylvania experienced cold temperatures and snow for the better part of the month. Here’s hoping March comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb. And we would prefer it to be a Nittany Lion, of course. 😉

Regardless, our staff kept warm and thought about spring as we attended several events from growers conventions to farming conferences.

Here’s a recap of our latest round of appearances:

AgrAbility booth Feb 2016AgrAbility PA participated in the 25th Annual Farming for the Future Conference hosted by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA). This was an excellent opportunity to share AgrAbility PA information with farmers, educators, community and state leaders, and network with other exhibitors. Our staff concentrated on the idea that our services and assistive technology is a key part of the future of agriculture and sustainability. Staff also emphasized information on proper lifting techniques, general farm safety, and arthritis.

Our staff has been participating in extension crop and dairy days across the state. These day-long events provide pesticide application credits, updates on the latest farming technology, and more. These events are also a social and networking time for many production farmers. Our staff networks with the farmers during break times and encourages them to spread the word about AgrAbility PA services.

Plant seedlingsAgrAbility partnered with the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH) to exhibit at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Growers Convention. This created an opportunity to reach out to growers who have labor intensive operations. There was a large interest in arthritis information, especially related to pruning and other repetitive tasks.

The winter weather has not slowed down our case coordinators farm visit schedule. In fact, the weather conditions have provided time for some clients to slow down and consider needed changes on the farm. Currently, client operations range from dairy goats to specialty crops and egg productions, but with a high percentage being traditional dairy farm families.

As the spring weather arrives, our staff will be working heavily with PA’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation to install equipment modifications and assistive technology on farms all across the state.

Here’s to spring!