Laura Akgerman – Disability Services Coordinator for Ohio AgrAbility
The Ohio AgrAbility Program’s dual missions of education and assistance to farmers with disabilities were on display at the 2018 Farm Science Review September 18 – 20. Staff, farmers and vendors were on hand to answer questions, greet visitors, demonstrate assistive technology and equipment, and talk about Ohio AgrAbility. To ensure no mobility devices ran out of power, OAP provided a mobility scooter & chair charging station for participants needing a re-charge. To facilitate access to the field demonstrations, AgrAbility sponsored an accessible shuttle bus to transport visitors from the main exhibit area to the farm fields.
Education and resources
OAP joined FSR management in the First Step program, which provides students and teachers educational opportunities and displays, and includes a worksheet for the students to complete. OAP hosted daily informal workshops on modifications for the barn, worksite, and equipment. OAP hosted Meredith Sweeney, an Occupational Therapist from the OSU Wexner Medical Center, who presented Modifying a Vehicle for Independence and Mobility, a very informative talk about evaluating and training drivers who need modifications to their vehicles due to age, medical conditions, or disability.
In addition to our publications and workshops, OAP showcased some of our most important education and outreach partners: our farmers. For FSR 2018, OAP invited our farmers to spend a few hours in the tent to greet visitors, try out new equipment, share their experiences with Ohio AgrAbility, and talk to students about farming with a disability. A group of OSU Capstone students spent time in the exhibit tent learning about the needs of farmers with mobility limitations who want to safely access a skid loader. The Capstone students are building on the work of last year’s Capstone students, who created a design plan for an accessible and safe skid loader. The current team plan to move beyond design and modify a skid loader, and test the prototype for mobility and safety.
AgrAbility education and outreach went well beyond the OAP exhibit tent. In the Utzinger Memorial Garden, staff presented two sessions on Gardening through the Lifespan. Even when staff were not presenting workshops in the garden, OAP was still on display - staff designed large “garden signs” with tips on gardening with low vision, arthritis and other imitations, which were planted throughout the garden. OAP staff also presented a session on Accessible AgriTourism at the Small Farm Center, and gave an impromptu TV interview after the workshop. In addition to the exhibit tent and workshops, Ohio AgrAbility hosted the Universal Design Garage (part of a larger UD house) and offered examples and information on using universal design in the workshop and farm.
Assistance and equipment demonstrations
OAP’s exhibit area featured resources and publications on farming and gardening with a disability, and adaptive equipment for rural lifestyles and agricultural businesses. FSR gives Ohio AgrAbility the opportunity to host some of the companies we partner with to serve Ohio farmers with disabilities, and allows OAP staff, farmers and visitors to try out new equipment and assistive technology. Companies in the OAP exhibit area included Life Essentials, PWR EZ Systems, K & M Manufacturing, Propel Sliding Door Automation, and Strong-Arm Lift. These vendors display and demonstrate their products, answer questions, and work with staff and farmers to problem solve issues that may limit the farmers productivity or ability to safely use and access their equipment and facilities.
For more information, please contact Laura Akgerman, Ohio AgrAbility and OSU Extension Disability Services Coordinator, at Akgerman.firstname.lastname@example.org, or 614-292-0622.