Andy Bauer—Ohio AgrAbility Program Educational Coordinator
Now that the winter weather is knocking on our doors, it may be time to start getting ready for spring field work. When working on equipment in the shop, give some thought to Universal Design concepts and make life and work easier on you and your help. Universal Design is the design of products or environments to make life easier for all people. Most people have Universal Design concepts in their homes, but don’t realize it. For example, lever style handles on doors and faucets, flat rocker style light switches make opening doors, turning on water and lighting a room easier. Can you think of other items in your home that can make life easier? Several of these concepts can be applied to your farm shop and buildings to make work outside easier for you not only in cold weather, but also throughout the year. When carrying heavy or awkward loads in your arms it is easier to turn on lights with the bump of an elbow on a rocker switch than a toggle switch. Think about changing some of those sliding doors to overhead doors or put in an electric opener to make it easier to get equipment in and out in bad weather.
Assistive Technology includes any kind of device, modification, or service that will help a person with a disability work and live more independently. Ultimately, it makes it possible for someone to complete a job that might otherwise be difficult. While assistive technology can make farming possible for individuals with limitations, it can also make life easier for everyone. When working in the shop this winter, think about the changes or modifications that you could do to your equipment to make your jobs easier to do or reduce stress on your body. Reducing some of the stress on your body now will help extend your ability to work longer the future. Maybe the steps could be extended to get on or off equipment easier, saving stress on your joints. If your legs, knees and back need more help then just extending the steps, consider hand rails in addition to the extended steps. A lift mounted on the equipment or independent of the equipment could make your access easier and extend the length of time you can continue to do your job. Change worn out tractor seats to reduce stress on your back, consider an air ride seat, or maybe a seat that will swivel to make it easier to see behind you. Another consideration of assistive technology would be the addition of mirrors or cameras to see equipment behind you and beside you to save stress on your back and neck to keep you working safely.
Assistive Technology ideas are designed to help the farmer with disabilities to be able to continue farming. Even for persons without disabling limitations, assistive technology allows the person to continue farming with reduced stress, and extend their ability to work.