Ohio AgrAbility in Action: Universal Design House and Garage at Farm Science Review

Laura Akgerman – Disability Services Coordinator for Ohio AgrAbility

Universal design is the creation of products and environments meant to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible without need for adaptation or specialization. Ohio AgrAbility often follows Universal Design (UD) principles when recommending modifications to equipment, tools, barns and workshops to farmers and their families. UD is useable by everyone, so modifications made to equipment or a barn will not prevent others from using it, and may make the equipment, tools and barn/workshop safer and easier for everyone to use. Universal Design was first used in architecture, and can be applied to homes, offices, sidewalks and outdoor spaces.

In 1999 OSU Extension’s Older Adult Development Issues Team, Ohio Department of Aging, and faculty in OSU’s College of Allied Medicine and the College of Family Resource Management developed a plan for curriculum and exhibits to teach Ohioan’s about Universal Design, and aging in place. The Universal Design Display House was built in the McCormick building at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center, home of Farm Science Review. The UD House is open for tours during FSR, and is staffed by OSU Educators and volunteers who lead house tours and explain different features of the house to FSR visitors. In addition to FSR the UD House is available for private tours to educational, health care and community groups – to schedule a tour, contact Kathy Goins, Clark County FCS Educator, goins.115@osu.edu, 937-521-3860.

In late July the Universal Design House at the Farm Science Review was the site of a special tour and presentation by OSU Extensions Universal Design team – Extension Educators, OSU professors, State Fire Marshalls, and Ohio AgrAbility. The event was presented to a group of South Korean researchers who had reached out to OSU Extension about their Universal Design work.

Ohio AgrAbility is responsible for the garage/workshop section of the UD House, and OAP staff presented information about UD in the garage, garden and workshop, as well as disability inclusion at OSU Extension and in the community. The Ohio AgrAbility UD garage features non-slip floors, work-surfaces of different height, as well as tool and equipment storage solutions. The garage also features a display of educational posters with information on modifications to equipment, barns and worksites, measurements for turning spaces, and tips on making your workspace accessible and safe.

The Universal Design Team has added more features and technology to the house, please visit Ohio AgrAbility’s exhibit tent and the Universal Design Display House during Farm Science Review this year (September 18 – 20).

One of the missions of Ohio AgrAbility is to work with farmers with disabilities to identify ways to make changes or modifications to equipment, facilities or worksites to allow the farmer to continue farming. Universal Design is one of the solutions we use to help farmers and their families stay safe at home and work.

The second mission of Ohio AgrAbility is to offer resources and education to all farmers on how to reduce the risks of injury and introduce modifications and technology that help farmers stay safe, and work more efficiently. Universal design solutions can be added to your home, equipment, workshop, barn and garden over months or years and can be upgraded to suit your needs and lifestyle. Ohio AgrAbility Fact sheets about Universal Design, gardening with a physical limitation, farming with chronic back pain, and farming with a disability can be found at https://agrability.osu.edu/resources/factsheets. OSU Extension Family and Consumer Sciences resources are available at https://fcs.osu.edu/programs/major-program-areas/healthy-relationships/universal-design

For more information, please contact Laura Akgerman, Ohio AgrAbility and OSU Extension Disability Services Coordinator, at Akgerman.4@osu.edu, or 614-292-0622.