The Ohio AgrAbility Program welcomed OAP farmers, visitors, and vendors, at the 2018 Farm Science Review (FSR) September 18-20. Staff were on hand to answer questions, meet visitors, and direct students to the First Step poster - an educational display with information about Ohio AgrAbility. Steve Swain represented National AgrAbility and Breaking New Ground/Indiana AgrAbility at the Farm Science Review. OAP staff appreciated his expertise and interaction with OAP clients and visitors.
OAP's exhibit area focused on information and resources from Ohio AgrAbility and National AgrAbility and assistive technology & adaptive equipment for rural lifestyles and agricultural businesses. The companies featured in the exhibit area at FSR included Life Essentials, PWR EZ Systems, K & M Manufacturing, Propel Sliding Door Automation, and Strong-Arm Lifts. To ensure no mobility devices ran out of power, OAP provided a mobility scooter & chair charging station for participants needing a re-charge. To facilitate access to the field demonstrations, AgrAbility sponsored an accessible shuttle bus to transport visitors from the main exhibit area to the farm fields.
This year, OAP invited farmers to spend a few hours in the tent to greet visitors, try out new equipment, and share their experiences with Ohio AgrAbility. A group of capstone students spent time with the farmers and vendors, learning about the needs of farmers with mobility limitations who want to safely access a skid loader. The capstone students are building on the work of last year's capstone students, who created a design plan for an accessible and safe skid loader. The current team plans to move beyond design and modify a skid loader and test the prototype for mobility and safety.
Staff offered daily informal workshops on modifications for barns, worksites, and equipment, and hosted peer-to-peer meetings with the farmers and their families. Meredith Sweeney, an occupational therapist from the OSU Wexner Medical Center, presented "Modifying a Vehicle for Independence and Mobility," a very informative talk about evaluating and training drivers who need modifications to their vehicles due to age, medical conditions, or disability.
AgrAbility education and outreach went well beyond the OAP exhibit tent. In the Utzinger Memorial Garden, staff presented two sessions on "Gardening through the Lifespan." Even when staff were not presenting workshops in the garden, OAP was still on display. Staff designed large "garden signs" with tips on gardening with low vision, arthritis, and other imitations, which were planted throughout the garden. OAP staff also presented a session on "Accessible AgriTourism" at the Small Farm Center and gave an impromptu TV interview after the workshop. In addition to the exhibit tent and workshops, Ohio AgrAbility hosted the Universal Design Garage (part of a larger UD house) and offered examples and information on using universal design in the workshop and farm. Several of the attendees from the workshops came to the AgrAbility exhibit tent to see the adaptive equipment and to learn more about Ohio AgrAbility's services and educational workshops and trainings.
Submitted by Laura Akgerman