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January 2021


Kansas Rehabilitation Services continued its collaboration with Kansas AgrAbility (KAP) in training new vocational rehabilitation counselors. Due to Covid-19, the four-hour presentation was conducted via Microsoft Teams. Sixteen new VR counselors were the core of the training, but a total of 64 VR staff opted to participate, creating some concern about bandwidth for the KAP team members! The training highlighted successful solutions for employment and reinforced the role of agriculture and agribusiness in highlighted cases; focused on a range of assistive technology devices that included agribusiness applications; and included interactive activities for VR staff to practice planning assistive and rehabilitation technology plans for clients with KAP staff. The discussion was lively, and the staff was pleased to discover one-fourth of the VR participants had experience in agribusiness or grew up on a farm. Staff also provided trivia related to assistive technology for the counselors, who were surprisingly competitive with their co-workers for KAP promo items. Since the virtual training, 11 VR counselors have followed up with questions and KAP and VR staff are discussing two new cases involving farmers. KAP anticipates three to four trainings with VR each year based on past experience. Additionally, staff at two of the Kansas Workforce Centers requested information about accessible agribusinesses and employment based on recent discussions with VR staff this past week.

Submitted by Sheila Simmons

Although Kansas AgrAbility's home is at Kansas State University, they also work with the University of Kansas through SKIL, their non-profit partner. Last fall, Karin Rasmussen, AT Ag Specialist with KAP, submitted a proposal to KU's BREAK (Biomedical and Rehabilitation Engineering Advancement in Kansas) program that through the engineering capstone design course gives senior engineering students the opportunity to design custom assistive devices and systems to benefit Kansans. The program focuses on tools, rehab, or assistive technology which are not currently available but would be a support to individuals with special needs.

Rasmussen's customer from west central Kansas operates a 150-head cow/calf operation with his father. During the winter months, the livestock are on stubble ground grazing on fallen corn and milo. Routinely during the week, the customer needs to take water out to the cattle since there is not a water source nearby. Due to a spinal cord injury, the customer is not able to open the gates, or get out of his truck to lower the nozzle from the large watering tank to the watering trough. Currently, the customer's 74-year-old father fills the troughs. The customer wants to be able to fill the trough independently, realizing that his father will not always be around to assist.

Rasmussen's proposal was accepted by BREAK, and next steps include a Zoom call with the customer, engineering students and professors, and Rasmussen. The students secured additional photos of the customer's truck and trailer with the watering tank and inquired about hand controls, truck wiring, tank, and trailer. The engineering team is working toward a solution for the KAP customer and hopes to have a solution this spring. KAP will continue to follow up with their client and share BREAK's solution when available.

Readers can visit the BREAK website for more information on the BREAK program and find past solutions, including Accessible Milk Barn Design.

Submitted by Tawnie Larson