July 25, 2021

Social support, assistive technologies improve quality of life for disabled farmers

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Disabled farmers who have social support, assistive technology, motivation and family support are more likely to improve their quality of life, according to a study by AgrAbility.

“The goal of our project is to help the farmers cope with the disabilities and the resulting limitations,” said Hamida Jinnah, program evaluation specialist at the Institute on Human Development and Disability. “One of the most important goals of the project is to protect and enhance their quality of life.”

Quality of life is defined as a multidimensional construct of one’s overall physical, emotional, social, financial and spiritual wellbeing. The quality of life of farmers and ranchers with disabilities is closely related to their ability to live and work independently.

“It is well known that farming is not a vocation, but a way of life,” the study says. “When clients are able to accomplish tasks and continue farming, in spite of their limitations, it gives them a sense of meaning and engagement in life and makes them feel empowered.”

Clients who improved the most reported having high intrinsic motivation to proactively initiate or implement assistive technology recommendations from AgrAbility.

Mastery motivation is an individual’s persistent attempts to overcome obstacles or limitations.

“Farmers and ranchers who have high intrinsic mastery motivation are more likely to seek and use available supports and resources like AgrAbility, which would increase the likelihood of them being able to continue farming, living and working independently on the farm,” the study says.

A 40-year-old female client with arthritis said that family support was crucial to her success.

“Sometimes my husband would have to remind me to not do things the old way,” she said. “So, my family was a very integral part in making changes.

“AgrAbility is a big part. AgrAbility would probably be half of the reason why (I succeed) because they just simply recommended things being different.

“The other half would be split evenly between myself and my family reminding me to do things the right. I had my family’s support to say, ‘Hey, don’t do it that way … Why don’t you use the cultivating machine instead of pulling those weeds by hand?’”

Clients whose quality of life improved the least likely experienced barriers to participation and engagement.

Barriers may include:

• Communication gaps between clients and staff.

• Vocational rehabilitation ineligibility.

• Excessive paperwork.

• Delay in obtaining VR services.

• VR counselors lack of knowledge about farming and farm tasks.

• Difficulty adapting new technology.

Based on 24 years of demographic data, AgrAbility has served over 26,000 clients with information, education and other services.

Learn more about AgrAbility at www.agrability.org.

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor