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December 2016

West Virginia

People First of West Virginia is a statewide network of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. West Virginia AgrAbility has identified individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as a target group to explore agriculture as an option for supplementing their food budget and also for the possibility of starting an agribusiness. Two hundred and eighty People First Self-Advocates and their staff were trained on how to start a backyard or balcony garden with limited resources and manpower.

West Virginia AgrAbility continues to provide information and resources to farmers requesting assistance. Ongoing advocacy has been provided to West Virginia farmers while continuing to work with the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services in securing funding for the needed agricultural modifications. Additional help was provided for AgrAbility clients to secure the needed funding from West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation by assisting with the grievance procedure on behalf of the farmers. Funding issues were addressed through West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services and working with WV Advocates to ensure that WV farmers are not pigeon-holed into a vocation they are not interested in by their rehabilitation counselor.

WV AgrAbility team members attended the National Small Farm conference in Virginia Beach, VA, September 19-22, 2016. West Virginia State University, West Virginia Assistive Technology Systems, and The Arc of the Mid-Ohio Valley were the partners represented. WV AgrAbility staff provided an informational display highlighting assistive technology to assist farmers with disabilities to continue in the vocation they love. A poster session, "Green Thumbs - Healthy Joints", highlighted a decade of accessible gardens, and an oral presentation titled "There's an App for That - Smartphone and Tablet Technology on the Farm" showed participants various apps that may assist in record keeping and management on the small farm.

Disability awareness information was provided to 520 youth during the Mercer County Progressive Farm Safety Day. WV AgrAbility staff discussed "people first language" and why "handicapped" should not be used to describe a person with a disability. They had the students imagine what it would be like to try and build a house using only a screwdriver. The students learned that a person with a disability needs specific assistive technology to function, just as the carpenter requires many different tools to build a house. A "hands-on" activity provided an opportunity for students to guess various types of assistive technology and what disability it would assist. Students were also asked whether an individual with paraplegia could be a teacher, play sports, go to the movies, or be a farmer, and then what special "tools" each profession would need to be successful.

Individuals with disabilities and their families or caregivers gathered in Elkins, WV, seeking resources to assist with daily living, employment, and recreation. AgrAbility staff provided information on how individuals with developmental disabilities could become involved in agriculture to provide additional income and to supplement their food costs. An AgrAbility display was also available for participants to view videos of assistive technology, and staff were available to provide additional individualized guidance.

Submitted by Inetta Fluharty