A farm is a busy place. There’s no denying that having all hands on deck is an essential part of establishing a successful farm operation.
Operating a thriving business avails a ton of chores and daily tasks, most of which require the assistance of equipment. However, the bulk of farming equipment is primarily built with the fully-able bodied in mind. This leaves about 20% of farmers to compensate, and modify tools – as about 20% of farmers today have a disability of some sort.
As a result, the advances in technology and the growing significance of disability issues is making farm equipment manufacturers think twice about their own business models. Today, many are taking into account disabled farmers and elderly farmers when they build newer farm tools.
There are now many disability-friendly tools that farmers can turn to. These tools are incredibly helpful in keeping up with the demands of an active farm. Here’s a look at are some of those tools, let us know what you think in the comments:
Conventional tractors rely on a system of controls and foot pedals.
This is an impossible feat for the many farmers experiencing paralysis from the waist down. They’re also hard if you have arthritis, MS, ALS, and other neurodegenerative diseases – thus, many can’t operate them at all. Farmers dealing with back-related, spinal cord related, neuromuscular challenges or amputations may find these newly developed tractor mods a saving grace.
As you can imagine, farming without a tractor is like scaling the side of a cruise ship with your bare hands. I suppose it’s possible but it’s incredibly challenging and frustrating.
Today, manufacturers are making hands-only tractor modification kits. It seems they haven’t put out a standard hands-only vehicle just yet, so the kits are our best bet. They will enable your tractor to work similarly to a wheelchair in that they only require the farmer to use your hands to fully operate the vehicle. The hand-exclusive kits get around paralysis and many other disabilities through a modification that puts all the controls at arm’s length.
Alternatively, you can purchase a tractor with a hydrostatic transmission since they don’t require you to engage a clutch.
With these modifications, users need only use their hands to operate everything. With this, disabled farmers can till fields as usual. This type of tractor mod affords the utmost convenience without a drop in the effectiveness of the machine.
Bent-rod hand controls can be found at asae.frymulti.com. Be sure to search “Evaluation of Mechanical Tractor Pedal Extensions” in the “with-the-exact-phrase” search area and then they’ll have you download a PDF. There are a few other companies that make custom hand controls for tractors, like www.lifeesstentialsweb.com. For joystick controls for cars and trucks, which are adaptable for tractors – www.emc-digi.com and www.creativecontrolsinc.com.
If you aren’t in the market to purchase one of these new hands-only tractor kits, there are also a few modifications you can do on your own that will solve the problem. These include:
To be able to use a tractor in the first place, a disabled farmer must be able to lift himself up and onto it.
This can also prove challenging without assistance. There are several lift designs available on the market for disabled farmers. These include our favorite, the seat lift, which helps farmers make up the difference between the wheelchair and the height of the tractor.
The usefulness of this accessory extends to pick-up trucks and semis as well.
Disabled farmers who only have a few acres of land can definitely make good use of a modified lawnmower.
With these, you can easily tend to your backyard or ranch by yourself. This innovative piece of technology makes for easy property maintenance.
There are about a dozen tractors that I know of that use fender-mounted speed control. (Tell us in the comments if you have experience with any specific brands). These lawn tractor seats have the hinge in the front and the spring suspension in the back. You can also try out the zero-turn option with lap bar steering. Many of these use hydro-static transmissions, making them somewhat like wheelchairs for lawn care.
There are several variations to this type of equipment, and many that come ready-made – unlike the tractors which have to be manually modified.
Our guess is that the tractor’s ticket price is so much higher that they don’t want to develop and market a hand-controlled $50,000+ tractor and compete with cheaper tractor modifications.
One of the most popular (and cost-effective) hand-controlled mowers is the push mower. It attaches to the wheelchair via reinforcement frames with supporting wheels, ensuring that the user can traverse the landscape with the mower, without modifying either. Similar to a bump gate kit, you wouldn’t have to modify anything that’s currently working. In other words, you would only need to purchase and attach a kit to get the job done.
You can buy a mower modification kit on Amazon that effectively attaches your wheelchair to your push mower. You can then move the mower about the yard by merely controlling your wheelchair as would be the case during routine operation.
The rough terrain of a farm necessitates a robust wheelchair to take on the landscape. But did you know that there are electric wheelchairs built for this exact purpose?
They come with generous tread in on the wheels that make light work of the dirt, grass, and rocky ground found on farms across the US. They run on an electrical power source to save you the trouble of adding fuel several times a day.
There’s also the stand-up wheelchair which can hold up the user in a standing pose, allowing him or her get to those hard-to-reach areas. These types of wheelchairs ensure disabled farmers can tend to matters such as pruning, milking, feeding, mucking out, and caring for sick or newborn livestock, among other tasks. They’re not ideal for large scale tasks like seeding or fertilizer spreading, however.
Finally, a gate opener is of the essence is incredibly helpful to disabled and elderly farmers.
Even if you have mild arthritis, this tool lessens the pain of navigating the farm to do cattle checks, opening, and closing doors, latching and unlatching your gated exits, and more.
This tool is non-electric, and the fact that it’s mechanical makes for even less friction. There is no maintenance, wiring, or weather sensitivity like other solar or automatic-electric gate kits. Yet it offers a simple and highly effective solution.
It’s very reliable during gloomy weather and ensures farmers can come and go as they please without needing assistance. In other words, there’s no need for someone to hold the gate, close the gate, and it doesn’t even require professional installation.
Moreover, bump gates have no downtime and are immune to severe weather conditions.
Different disabilities require different farming approaches and equipment modifications.
The AgrAbility website groups several useful tools into categories by the disabilities they assist. From systems for those with compromised hearing, to tools for the visually impaired, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.
You can narrow down your search to the mods that fit your needs, and even learn more about how to apply for an assistive technology grant to get funding for the resources you need.
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