A simple, modified garden tool or a pickup outfitted with a wheelchair lift may be the solution for a disabled farmer to return to work.
While the Oklahoma AgrAbility Project can recommend the right device, it can't always help the farmer pay for it. That's why the group organized a demonstration Monday at the state Capitol.
“Our general purpose for AgrAbility Day at the Capitol is to educate legislators, recognize a partner of Oklahoma AgrAbility and let legislators get a better sense of who we are,” said Linda Jaco, Oklahoma AgrAbility co-director. “We hope this will show the need for state support to provide additional services to our rural clients.”
Program manager Sandra Stevenson said she visits farmers and ranchers with disabilities to determine their needs.
“Whatever the obstacle is, we want them to stay on the farm, or the ranch, providing the food we eat,” she said.
In many cases, AgrAbility clients were disabled by an injury sustained on the farm. Assistive technology such as hydraulics, computerization, motorized lifts, modifications to farm buildings, farm tools and automated gates are ways farms can be adapted to let a farmer keep working.
The Oklahoma AgrAbility Project Act, which provided practical education and assistance to promote independence to people with disabilities in the agricultural sector, became law in 2007 but wasn't funded by the Legislature.
The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services partners with the AgrAbility Project to provide grants when needed.
Executive Director Michael O'Brien said they have nearly 30 shared cases.