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July 2011

West Virginia

West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) funded the purchase of a Kabota RTV 1100 and AgCam for a farmer in Preston County earlier this month. This equipment will allow the farmer to continue working and managing his cattle and hay production.

The farmer has rheumatoid arthritis and a spinal condition. These health factors make getting around the farm, twisting and bending the body in order to do farm work, and operating equipment difficult. These health conditions and the farmer’s management practices of his hay and cattle farm directly influenced the equipment recommendations made by AgrAbility staff. Staff recommended both the Kabota RTV 100 and the AgCam to make getting around the farm and operating equipment easier.

Due to the farmer’s spinal condition, he cannot twist his body to see what is around and behind him. Backing up the tractor and bailing hay were nearly impossible for him to do. The AgCam was recommended so the farmer can see what is behind him when he operates his equipment.

The AgCam camera system is designed to decrease the amount of turning and twisting needed from the tractor seat, or any vehicle. It is a camera with a magnetic base and a monitor. The camera is attached and aimed at whatever space or image the farmer needs to see. The monitor is placed at eye level wherever it is comfortable for the farmer to see it. The AgCam is powered by being wired into the fuse panel of the vehicle, e.g. tractor, utility vehicle, or by wall plug or cigarette lighter.

The farmer’s arthritis causes him trouble getting around the farm. A utility vehicle was recommended because it is easy to get in and out of compared to a pick-up truck or tractor. This is because the seat of a utility vehicle is positioned at a height where a passenger does not have to bend very far in order to sit down. Also, utility vehicles do not have steps to climb like pick-ups and tractors.

AgrAbility recommended the RTV 1100 because Kabota features variable hydro transmissions on all of their models. This type of transmission immediately stops the vehicle as soon as the driver lets off the accelerator. No braking is necessary, not even on an incline.

The ability to let off the accelerator and not have to press a brake pedal is added safety for drivers who are not able to move their foot quickly from the gas to the brake. The variable hydro transmission also eliminates the chance of coasting if the driver misses the brake pedal.

The RTV 1100 also has a cargo box with a hydraulic lift. The hydraulic lift allows loads to be dumped automatically and without the operator having to leave the seat. Every farmer needs to move supplies and materials around their farm. Utility vehicles with cargo boxes make hauling materials and tools around the farm easier. In this farmer’s case, the cargo box with hydraulic lift is a necessity.

In most farm settings, utility vehicles are considered safer and more efficient mobility devices than wheelchairs in terms of completing farm responsibilities. Utility vehicles are made to handle and operate in tough terrain, such as on slopes and in mud and manure. Although wheelchairs can get people around a farm, they do not always navigate farm terrain well. Oftentimes, mud and manure can clog up the mechanical parts of an electric powered wheelchair. Mud covering tires and spokes can make it impossible to maneuver a wheelchair.

AgrAbility offers free farm assessments to any farmer, or a family member, who has difficulty doing farm work or getting around their farm because of an injury or chronic health condition.

The purpose of the farm assessment is to allow AgrAbility staff to observe the farmer, the techniques the farmer uses to complete farm tasks, what the farmer does to compensate for any difficulties he has, and to get a good understanding of the farmer's working conditions. Farm assessments are used to help AgrAbility staff make recommendations for equipment modifications, equipment purchases, or changes to operation layout.

Earlier this month staff spoke to the Burbannah Gardening Club at their monthly meeting in Morgantown. Staff and club members talked about accessibility in public gardens and parks, as well as ergonomics. Ergonomic garden tools from the WVATS Loan Library were on display and added a 'show and tell' feel to the discussion. Having these tools on hand made it easy to talk about what characteristics make tools ergonomic.

These tools also allowed participants to demonstrate the proper way to hold and use tools. This led to a discussion on the negative effects that improperly using a tool can have on a person’s body over time. A few highlights:

AgrAbility staff participated in the 33rd Annual Summer Institute on Aging at Lakeview Resort in Morgantown, West Virginia on June 8th-10th. Staff presented Making Sense of Rights, Protections & Entitlements for People with Disabilities. This presentation is an overview of the newest section to the larger caregiver project that staff has been developing, Caring for the Caregiver: Tools for Caregivers in Rural Areas.

The purpose of the presentation and the section from which it is derived is to provide people just diagnosed and their prospective caregivers with a taste of what services and entitlements are available in a simple overview. Topics specific to older adults include financial planning, estate planning, and common legal affairs involved with end of life decisions.

The presentation was well attended. Participants had many questions particularly dealing with trusts, advanced medical directives, and writing wills. Lauren Wilson, AgrAbility’s student worker and law student, was able to provide comprehensive legal information on these topics. This truly made the presentation unique.

Submitted by Julie York