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Dissemination of Assistive Technology Information to Farmers and Ranchers with Disabilities

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health. 17(3): 187-207. (doi: 10.13031/2013.38182) @2011
Authors:   C. W. Racz, W. E. Field
Keywords:   Assistive technology, Computers, Disability, Disabled farmers, Dissemination, Formats, Information delivery, Internet, Media, Print, Translation

Since induction of the AgrAbility program through appropriations contained in the 1990 Farm Bill, the national and state/regional AgrAbility projects have used a variety of methods to disseminate information about assistive technology (AT) to farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers with disabilities. To date, no known research has been conducted to assess those delivery methods from the perspectives of either the persons with disabilities in need of information or the education and rehabilitation professionals who work with them. This study's purpose was two-fold: (1) review various dissemination strategies to identify those documented as being more effective, and (2) conduct surveys to ascertain the perspectives of AgrAbility project professionals and a national network of farmers and ranchers with disabilities (called the Barn Builders). Key findings of the study were as follows: (1) the farmers and ranchers most preferred receiving information via printed newsletters (71%) and printed publications (67%); (2) AgrAbility staff most preferred receiving information via internet-based publication access (61%), e-mail (60%), and printed publications (58%); (3) many farmers and ranchers perceived that dissemination strategies were moving toward the internet (53%) and that AT information was generally more available now than in the past (38%); (4) both AgrAbility staff and the Barn Builders tended to agree that farmers still wanted to receive information in printed form; and (5) neither age nor education level appeared to be a strong predictor of internet use by farmers. Key recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of current AT information delivery methods included: (1) implementing effective document management strategies for all information resources, especially for online content; and (2) minimizing language translation efforts, since such a small percentage of the AgrAbility project customer base is primarily non-English speaking. It is believed that the findings of this study also have implications for service delivery strategies in other areas, including topics relating to agricultural safety and health.

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