The Pryor Times

Opinion

August 22, 2011

Helping farmers with disabilities

PRYOR — Since being elected to the legislature in 2004, one of my priorities has been disability concerns. In this column I write to let you know about the AgrAbility Project, a venture funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.  This relatively unknown program helps open the door to farmers/ranchers who may have been affected by a physical disability.

Through a partnership with Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service and Oklahoma Assistive Technology Foundation, AgrAbility promotes independence in agricultural production and rural living. AgrAbility works with communities and health care professionals to accommodate farm and home needs for rural farmers and ranchers. It also provides networking for families by sharing information and resources for people with disabilities.

AgrAbility is not a cash subsidy program but is able to assist any Oklahoman with a disability who is engaged farming, ranching or any other agriculture-related occupation. The program works directly with people who have a wide variety of disabilities some that are present at birth such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and hearing impairment as well as conditions that are the result of an accident, illness or age-related condition.

In my opinion the primary way AgrAbility helps farmers and ranchers with disabilities is through Assistive/Adaptive Technology. In other words, modifications to tools and equipment that will enable use/operation by a person with a disability. These technologies are sometimes costly but provide access to equipment, tools that can be used with one hand and hand controls for operating equipment with minimal force. In short, AgrAbility helps preserve a way of life that would otherwise be lost for some farmers and ranchers with a disability. It also allows them to continue to work to support their families.

Oklahoma AgrAbility is one of 21 state AgrAbility projects created in the 1990 Farm Bill. We should be proud to offer this service to those engaged in agriculture in our State. But in this age of discussion about down-sizing government and so-called “pork projects” let this be an example of a taxpayer funded program that will continue to that hang in the balance.

If you or someone you know would benefit from the AgrAbility project visit their website at www.agrability.okstate.edu. If you need assistance or would like to visit about an issue, please feel free to contact my capitol office at (800) 522-8502 or email me at bensherrer@okhouse.gov. Until next week, God bless you.

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