Winter 1986 // Volume 24 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // 4IAW3

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Helping Disabled Farmers


Pauline Odegard-Johnson
Handicapped Programs Coordinator
CSU Cooperative Extension Service
Colorado State University-Fort Collins

In the United States in 1985, 1,700 deaths and 180,000 disabling injuries were caused by agricultural work accidents. Thousands of other farm residents were seriously or fatally injured in home, highway, and recreational accidents. Additionally, an undetermined number of farm residents and workers suffer from work-related illnesses causing disability, permanent health damage, and death. This adds up to 6.5 million people (or 12% of the population) with disabilities living in rural areas.1

To address the needs of farmers with disabilities and their families, Colorado State University Cooper ative Extension, Craig Hospital, and Denver Botanic Gardens co-sponsored a conference - "Ideas for Today's Physically Challenged Farmers" in Denver, Colorado, February 27-March 1, 1986. Fifty-seven people from 11 different states attended.

The conference gave participants opportunities to exchange ideas, share experiences, and reduce feelings of isolation. The development of rapport and role models between farmers with recent injuries and those who have lived with their injuries for a number of years was another important outcome of the conference. And, the realization that one can continue to farm, in many cases, after an injury provided hope for some farmers who haven't been back to work since their accident.

Topics covered during the 2112-day conference were modifying agricultural worksites, adapting agricultural equipment, farm machinery safety, farm stress, recreational options, computerized accounting packages, wheelchair maintenance, use of allterrain vehicles, remote control of computerized irrigation equipment, and two-way radio systems. Presenters included specialists in safety, human development and family studies, handicapped programs, computer applications, therapeutic recreation, and rehabilitation engineering.

Participant feedback was positive. Many expressed interest in future conferences. A follow-up evaluation sent five months later found that of the 59% returning the questionnaire, 100% believed the conference was worthwhile and they learned something new, 65% had done something with their new knowledge, and 75% wanted to attend future conferences.

  1. These figures were provided by William D. Hanford, Manager of the National Safety Council's Agricultural Department, Chicago, Illinois, as quoted in "Breaking New Ground," III (Summer 1985).