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Interagency Collaboration to Equip Farmers and Rancherswith Vocational Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies

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

Citation:  2016 ASABE Annual International Meeting  162455907.(doi:10.13031/aim.20162455907)
Authors:   Rhonda Miller, Anne Brown-Reither, Michael L. Pate
Keywords:   agricultural enterprises, education, policy, safety.

Abstract. Assistive technologies are available to accommodate farmers and ranchers who become chronically ill or injured so that they can continue to farm. Utah‘s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program is the largest provider of assistive technology in the state. Providing assistance in the acquisition of assistive technology and training is an important component of the VR program; however, counselors often have limited expertise in addressing the assistive technology needs unique to people in agriculture. In addition, the nature of farming, and the farmers themselves, often results in confusion regarding eligibility for VR services. Utah VR‘s 2013 Annual Report of successful closures indicates that only 79 individuals were successfully rehabilitated in farm/fishing/forestry occupations. When estimates of Utah farmers with disabling conditions are considered, VR assisted less than one half of one percent (<0.5%) of potentially eligible farmers. Using information from client satisfaction surveys and focused panel discussions, AgrAbility of Utah developed strategies to advocate for farmers by educating and empowering these important stakeholders to create a more effective interagency network of support. As a result, AgrAbility of Utah has collaborated with VR in developing a Farm and Ranch policy clarifying how farm assets are counted and establishing a partnership for identifying and addressing assistive technology needs. This paper documents the outreach and education efforts that are used to increase access to vocational rehabilitation services for farmers and ranchers with disabilities to maintain their careers and quality of life.

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