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CalAgrAbility to aid permanently injured and disabled farmers, workers

Is hearing loss, arthritis or back injury hindering your work on the farm? A new University of California project will help physically challenged farmers and workers modify their work environment to better suit their abilities. UC Cooperative Extension’s Farm Safety program and Easter Seals Superior California have teamed up to offer the California AgrAbility Project, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

More than 20,000 disabling injuries occur on California farms each year, according to UC Davis research. In addition, farmers and farmworkers experience injuries and illnesses that the general public suffers as well.

CalAgrAbility staff can help farmers and workers design and customize assistance plans based on the type of farming operation or job tasks, and taking into consideration the needs of the individual who has a permanent injury or disability and his or her family. The plan may include worksite modification, peer support, job restructuring, and equipment purchase or modification. Staff can help identify funding, services or care resources. They can also help with stress management, community and health care coordination.

"What is important to keep in mind is that there are solutions for dealing with conditions that make it difficult for farmers and workers to continue working," said Martha Stiles, UC CalAgrAbility coordinator. "A solution may consist merely of rearranging a work site, such as moving materials closer, adjusting the height of equipment, or adapting a hand tool so that it is more ergonomically safe for someone with an injury."

Stiles and Easter Seals CalAgrAbility coordinator Marcie Moreno visit with customers to jointly establish goals and objectives to get them back to work on the farm or to make their current farm tasks less arduous.

California is one of 21 states offering this service. Although the program is relatively new in California, CalAgrAbility has already begun assisting people.  For instance, CalAgrAbility helped a farmworker who is permanently in a wheelchair as a result of a car crash injury obtain computer equipment so he can work in a farm office and continue his education. Stiles also helped a raisin grower locate resources to replace his old prosthetic leg with a better fitting limb to eliminate his pain. He has farmed his 40 acres for 40 years with a prosthetic leg, but wanted to reduce his pain and discomfort.

CalAgrAbility services are available to individuals and their families who are engaged in farming or farm-related occupations and who are coping with the effects of a physical disability such as arthritis, chronic back pain, respiratory illness, amputation, or hearing or vision impairments. Applicants should live or work in the 13-county Easter Seals Superior region: Amador, Alpine, Calaveras, El Dorado, Nevada Placer, Sacramento San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tuolumne, Yolo, or Yuba.

To enroll or to get more information about CalAgrAbility, contact Martha Stiles at UC Davis at (530) 752-2606 or Marcie Moreno at Easter Seals at 1-888-877-3257 or (916) 679-3117.
Visit CalAgrAbility on the Web at: http://calagrability.ucdavis.edu
For more information about the national AgrAbility Project, refer to www.agrabilityproject.org



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