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AgrAbility Unlimited helps those with serious injuries
Illinois Correspondent

DECATUR, Ill. — The agricultural industry has long been recognized as one of the most hazardous industries. It is estimated that more than 200,000 agricultural individuals will suffer work-related injuries or illnesses, which result in lost work time.

High-risk individuals include farm operators, farm employees, seasonal workers and farm family members. In Illinois, AgrAbility Unlimited strives to assist individuals and their families, who have suffered an injury, illness or disability to remain actively engaged in production farming.

Building on the strength of their partners, AgrAbility Unlimited is a joint venture between the University of Illinois Extension and Central Illinois Easter Seals to provide education and assistance in identifying ways to accommodate persons with disabilities, eliminate barriers and create a favorable climate among rural service providers for agriculturalists with disabilities.

Authorized by the 1990 Farm Bill, AgrAbility Unlimited was one of the first 10, federally funded, state programs intended to serve agriculturalists and their families who have been stricken by an injury or illness. AgrAbility Unlimited provides services to farmers, their families and agricultural workers in order that they can continue being active in production agriculture.

In order to accomplish this goal, the program assists with on-site assessments of adaptive requirements; equipment/worksite modifications; job task restructuring; agricultural occupation alternatives; stress management referrals; one-to-one peer support networks and safety/secondary injury awareness.

AgrAbility Unlimited not only utilizes their own staff to accomplish the program’s goals but they also network with community, local and state agricultural and rehabilitation professionals.

Further building on the strength of AgrAbility Unlimited partners, Senator Rick Winkel (R-Urbana) and Representative Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) sponsored House Bill 1575 in an effort to extend state funding and support for the goals of this program. House Bill 1575 unanimously passed the Illinois General Assembly and was signed into law last year.

For the first time since 1991, AgrAbility Unlimited did not received funding from the USDA for the upcoming fiscal year; however, rather than being discouraged, Mike Brokaw, program manager, indicated that they are now pursuing state dollars. To their credit, AgrAbility has numerous success stories. Recently, AgrAbility Unlimited was able to assist a farmer in Cuba, Ill. who lost part of his hand and all the feeling in his left leg in a grain bin accident.

Not only did the program secure the necessary resources to adapt the tarps and hopper doors on his grain truck but the program also modified his grain bins with stairs and catwalks rather than ladders. Not only did these changes allow this individual to remain in production agriculture but they also made his equipment and bins easier and safer to work around.

This farm news was published in the May 10, 2006 issue of Farm World.