Michigan AgrAbility to host regional workshop

Michigan AgrAbility and the National AgrAbility Program are teaming up to offer an assistive technology professional training in Ann Arbor July 16-18, 2024.

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This tractor is equipped with a lift, eliminating the need for users to climb steps, along with a three-point hitch system enabling them to swiftly switch implements from within the cab. Photo by Samantha Wolfe.

AgrAbility is a USDA-funded program that offers onsite assistance and assistive technologies to farmers with a disability, injury or chronic condition. The program operates in 21 states across the country, last year assisting 215 farms in Michigan through a collaboration between Michigan State University Extension and EastersealsMORC. In addition to direct assistance, the program also offers educational opportunities, networking and outreach within and among the various organizations. These organizations work with the same populations consisting of those with disabilities in rural areas, particularly those with agricultural production. This summer, the Michigan AgrAbility project and the National AgrAbility Project are pleased to announce the AgrAbility Regional Workshop in Ann Arbor with a focus on assistive technology (AT).

Assistive technology serves an important role in many different settings, aiming to enhance accessibility and efficiency for people performing any kind of task. This leads to a range of solutions, from simple ergonomic adjustments to advanced, high-tech innovations. For example, foam-padded grips and ergonomically designed tools may be helpful for people with arthritic conditions, while a conveyor belt or automated system may optimize processes and reduce repetitive tasks or manual labor. Other high-tech assistive technology may include a hydraulic powered lift to eliminate the need to climb tractor steps, which safely moves the operator from the ground to the tractor seat with the push of a button.

The AgrAbility Regional Workshop will focus on assistive technology, worksite assessment, and preparing for the ATP exam. It will also include an assessment onsite at a client’s farm. This workshop will take place July 16-18 at Weber’s Boutique Hotel in Ann Arbor. The draft agenda may be found online. Registration is through Goodwill of the Finger Lakes, the National AgrAbility event coordination partner. The cost is $175 and includes lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday, and dinner at the farm. There is a block room rate of $134 per night at Weber’s; booking before June 15 is highly encouraged. If the registration fee is cost-prohibitive, email MSU Extension educator Samantha Wolfe at wolfesa4@msu.edu. Registrations must be received before July 9, 2024.

The workshop is intended for service providers (VR, state agencies, governmental organizations), agricultural professionals (Extension, Farm Bureau staff, FFA, ag educators),

Occupational/Physical therapists, staff, teachers and students, Assistive Technology professionals, staff from other state AgrAbility projects and those working in ag safety, health and wellness. Registration includes a one-year membership to the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), a $185 value, as well as the potential to earn up to 10 CEUs for AT professionals. While there is no prerequisite level of training required to attend the RTW, attendees should have an interest in assistive technology and or work with the target populations.

Those attending the AgrAbility Regional Workshop will complete the training with a developed understanding of assistive technology and its uses in agricultural settings. They will be familiar with an AgrAbility farm site assessment and will be well-prepared for the RESNA Assistive Technology Professional Certification exam. Additionally, they will have opportunities to network with a strong cohort of individuals across various disciplines throughout Michigan and the Great Lakes region.

For additional questions or information, contact MSU Extension educator Samantha Wolfe at wolfesa4@msu.edu or 231-882-0025.

If you are interested in learning more about assistive technology in agricultural contexts and preparing for the Assistive Technology Professional certification exam, register soon for the AgrAbility Regional Workshop. Visit https://goodwillofthefingerlakes.regfox.com/agrability-regional-workshop-ann-arbor-mi to register.

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