About agrabilitypa

The mission of AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians is to assist farmers and agricultural workers with a disability or long-term health condition by providing the resources and support they need to live independently and continue in production agriculture.

Assistive Technology Matters: Gathering in Washington, D.C. to inform legislators

US_CapitolIt was a busy day in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, June 22. And not only because it was the day that Senate Republicans shared their version of a healthcare reform bill. Although that certainly added to the political atmosphere. 🙂

AgrAbility PA joined the National AgrAbility Project for a day of informing legislators, staffers, and legislative aides about assistive technology and the important and necessary role it plays in the everyday lives of people with a disability or long-term health condition. That includes farmers, agricultural workers, and ranchers across the country!

As many said, “It’s not a want. It’s a need. Technology matters.”

The event held at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill was sponsored by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD). It is a coalition of more than 100 national disability organizations working together to advocate for national public policy that ensures the self-determination, independence, empowerment,  integration, and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society.

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U.S. Representative Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, of PA’s 5th district

Several legislators visited the event to offer words of encouragement and ensure support from Congress, including U.S. Senator Ed Markey and U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy III, both of Massachusetts, and U.S. Representative Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, who is the U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 5th congressional district, serving since 2009. He represents Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Huntingdon, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Venango, and Warren counties in Pennsylvania. Rep. Thompson specifically called out AgrAbility as an example of a program that has had and continues to have a significant impact on those who work in the agricultural industry — an industry of critical importance in a state like Pennsylvania.

IMG_2666.JPGA panel consisting of consumers and their families shared personal stories about how assistive technology has impacted their lives in so many ways — from a mother sharing about her daughter born with cerebral palsy to a young man who was the victim of a violent attack that left him paralyzed. All emphasized the importance of access to assistive technology.

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Dr. Connie Baggett, Paul Jones, and Kendra Martin (left to right)

AgrAbility PA staff Dr. Connie Baggett, project director, and Kendra Martin, outreach coordinator, joined National AgrAbility Project staff member Paul Jones at a booth to share information on assistive technology related to agriculture — from ergonomic gardening tools to automated doors and lifts — and how it greatly benefits farmers with mobility impairments, joint injuries, arthritis, and other conditions.

Several organizations representing the field of assistive technology were in attendance, including Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT). PIAT strives to enhance the lives of all Pennsylvanians with disabilities, older Pennsylvanians, and their families through access to and acquisition of assistive technology devices and services, which allow for choice, control, and independence at home, work, school, play, and in their neighborhoods. Kim Singleton, director of assistive technology programs, was on-hand to answers questions and demonstrate a new piece of robot technology guided by a smart phone for the home.

Many thanks to Perkins School for the Blind, RESNA, National Disability Rights Network, Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs, and American Foundation for the Blind for their leadership in organizing the event.

About AgrAbility PA

AgrAbility PA assists farmers and agricultural workers with disabilities or long-term health conditions by linking them to potential resources and by providing support they need to live independently and continue working in or return to production agriculture.

AgrAbility PA is a statewide partnership between Penn State Extension and UCP Central PA in support of a project funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Learn more about AgrAbility PA by visiting http://www.AgrAbilityPA.org, calling (814) 867-5288, emailing AgrAbility@psu.edu, or searching @AgrAbilityPA on social media.

Improved Workflow Leads to Enhanced Farm Living for Todd Zimmerman

 

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Todd with the 3-ton bulk feed bin.

Todd Zimmerman knows all about the benefits of working with an occupational therapist (OT) to ease his pain and better his workflow around the farm. He had the opportunity through AgrAbility PA and the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) to receive on-farm visits from a licensed OT practitioner in 2008 and 2016.

On the surface, the story is a familiar one: Farmer has work to attend to on the farm, but experiences pain and discomfort due to a disability or long-term health condition. In Todd’s case, a back injury in 1991 coupled with degenerative disc disease that has taken its toll on his spine over the years.

Todd owns a dairy goat farm, Four Zimm Dairy Plus, in Union County, selling raw milk and making homemade goat milk soap with essential oils. He first contacted AgrAbility PA in 2008, which initiated a visit from an AgrAbility staff member to provide a farm assessment and recommendations. Todd also received a visit from Dwight Heller, a licensed OT specialist, and representatives from OVR. This team walked with Todd – step by step – through his daily activities on the farm. Dwight was able to make suggestions along the way to improve the function and flow of Todd’s workday – from feeding to cleaning and everything in between.

“Dwight has an agricultural background – having grown up on a farm – but he is very good at what he does now. He can come up with ideas to help in the short term, as well as considerations for down the road,” Todd said.

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Todd with his goats.

For example, using a milking stand. Dwight worked with Todd to adjust the set-up, depending on whether or not he was using a walker to aid in his mobility. Dwight also suggested changes to the feeding process. Todd had to break down 50 lbs. bags into 5-gallon buckets in order to carry them. Similarly, forking manure was a significant strain on his back.

OVR was able to assist with the cost of improving the workflow around Todd’s farm. First, with the purchase of a 3-ton bulk feed bin. Feed is blown into the bulk bin monthly and then an auger draws it down for Todd to distribute. Secondly, by concreting the barn floors, Todd can use his tractor to move manure. He also received a composter. These improvements have drastically eased the strain on Todd’s body.

In 2016, Dwight visited again to review Todd’s workflow and to offer suggestions on the soap making process. Todd was using an old table to handle and label the soaps prior to distribution, causing him strain and pain. Dwight suggested a Varidesk – an adjustable-height standing desk that allows you to switch between standing and sitting while working. OVR was able to assist with the purchase of a desk.

Todd is grateful for the support to continue farming, thanks to AgrAbility PA and OVR. The time spent with Dwight has truly made a lasting impact on his daily work.

“If anyone is on the fence about contacting AgrAbility PA, I’d tell them to go ahead. It needs to be done to ensure you will be able to do the work you love,” Todd said.

* Todd’s story appeared in Field Notes, AgrAbility PA’s printed newsletter. Contact us to be added to our mailing list.

About AgrAbility PA

AgrAbility PA assists farmers and agricultural workers with disabilities or long-term health conditions by linking them to potential resources and by providing support they need to live independently and continue working in or return to production agriculture.

AgrAbility PA is a statewide partnership between Penn State Extension and UCP Central PA in support of a project funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Learn more about AgrAbility PA by visiting http://www.AgrAbilityPA.org, calling (814) 867-5288, emailing AgrAbility@psu.edu, or searching @AgrAbilityPA on social media.

Assistive Technology: Tractor Door Opener

Installing a tractor door opener makes for easier and safer tractor cab access for individuals with mobility impairments.

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Many older model International tractors, often found on Pennsylvania farms, have doors that do not open wide enough or stay open by themselves. The door hinges toward the front of the tractor rather than the back like many other models. This increases the difficultly associated with entering and exiting the operator platform. 
 
Often, the individual has to hold the door open while climbing the steps. The doors are also known to swing back and hit the individual if they are not pushing on the door. For someone with limited strength it can be difficult to hold the door open. This also creates a higher risk of falls because holding the door open takes focus off foot placement and balance.  
 
Tractor door openers are cylinders that mount at the top of the tractor door. This device can be easily installed  and is relatively inexpensive. Once installed the cylinder helps open the door and keeps the door in the open position. This is an excellent piece of assistive technology to help modify older tractors. 
More on Tractor Door Openers from Disability Work Tools.

About AgrAbility PA

AgrAbility PA assists farmers and agricultural workers with disabilities or long-term health conditions by linking them to potential resources and by providing support they need to live independently and continue working in or return to production agriculture.

AgrAbility PA is a statewide partnership between Penn State Extension and UCP Central PA in support of a project funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Learn more about AgrAbility PA by visiting http://www.AgrAbilityPA.org, calling (814) 867-5288, emailing AgrAbility@psu.edu, or searching @AgrAbilityPA on social media.

AgrAbility PA to award prizes to winning PA FFA chapters in Bridging Horizons Contest

image_leadimageAgrAbility PA’s inaugural Bridging Horizons Contest concluded this spring with two winners! The contest provided an opportunity for Pennsylvania FFA Association chapters to make a positive impact in their community by enhancing independence and/or promoting success for farmers with disabilities.

Entry categories included three options: completing a service project, developing an assistive technology tabletop demo, or creating a video presentation. The Central Columbia FFA and Columbia-Montour AVTS FFA chapters will split $400 as they collaborated on a service project. The Cumberland Valley FFA will win $400 for an assistive technology tabletop demo.

Awards will be presented during the 88th PA FFA State Convention & Activities Week, which is held at Penn State University from June 13-15, 2017. Students and their FFA chapters will be honored on June 14 at 7 p.m. during a General Session event at the Bryce Jordan Center.

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Performing cleaning, repairing, and reconditioning to saddle and parts.

Students from the Central Columbia FFA and Columbia-Montour AVTS FFA chapters worked collaboratively at the Eos Therapeutic Riding Center in Bloomsburg, Pa. The center provides therapeutic horseback riding lessons for mentally, physically, and emotionally challenged children and adults. The students worked over the course of a year to assist with facility needs, riding equipment needs, and rider needs.

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An FFA member works with one of the riding horses to assure the equipment and conditions are safe for the therapeutic riders.

A student with the Cumberland Valley FFA chapter developed a myoelectric prosthetic hand. This assistive technology developed out of an agriscience research project being conducted by a student with an interest in robotics and prosthetics. The student started by creating models of hands from drinking straws and emerged into creating a function model out of lumber. The project evolved after a model of a hand was 3-D printed and programmed to operate from an electrical stimulus.

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Information about next year’s Bridging Horizons Contest will be available on September 1, 2017 at www.bridginghorizonspa.org.

AgrAbility PA assists farmers and agricultural workers with disabilities or long-term health conditions by linking them to potential resources and by providing support they need to live independently and continue working in or return to production agriculture.

AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians (AgrAbility PA) is a statewide partnership between Penn State Extension and UCP Central PA in support of a project funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Learn more about AgrAbility PA by visiting http://www.AgrAbilityPA.org, calling (814) 867-5288, emailing AgrAbility@psu.edu, or searching @AgrAbilityPA on social media.

Assistive Technology Spotlight: Ergonomic Gardening Tools

If April showers bring May flowers, then we are already headed towards a beautiful spring!

 

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AgrAbility PA Project Assistant Abbie Spackman shared garden-related assistive technology at the Occupational Therapy Association Conference (AOTA) in Philadelphia this spring.

 

Pair this with the beautiful, mild weather we’ve been having, it can be exciting to get back outside and into your flowerbeds or garden. But painful hands, wrists, and backs can quickly dissipate that excitement.

Head to your local gardening store or visit sites online to find the perfect garden tools for you. For a tool to be truly ergonomic, it needs to be fitted to each individual. This is why we recommend trying tools out before you buy them. What fits one person may not fit you!

Visit this website for a wonderful resource on gardening with arthritis!

Here are several tools we commonly recommend:

Green Heron Tools: This company sells tools ergonomically built for women. Try out their shovels or a pair of pruners that come in two sizes.

Radius Gardening Tools: They are lightweight and have curved handles that allow for different writs positions. They also have larger grips that can reduce joint pain in your hands.

 

Disability Work Tools Robo Handle: This handle can be added to tools you already have! The unique grip allows your wrist to stay in a natural position.

Heron shovels

Green Heron Shovels

Ergo Trowel

Ergonomic Trowel

Robo Handle

Robo Handle

Now…get outside and enjoy gardening! In between the rain. 🙂