seal  Purdue News

February 25, 2004

'Toolbox' CD full of fixes for farm accessibility

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Farmers and ranchers with disabilities have a new "toolbox" for fixing workplace accessibility problems.

"The Toolbox," a resource manual produced by Purdue University's Breaking New Ground Resource Center, has made the leap from print to computer format. A CD-ROM version contains a revised print edition plus many electronic features, said Paul Jones, Breaking New Ground program manager. Breaking New Ground is Purdue's outreach program for farmers with disabilities.

"'The Toolbox' lists close to 800 products that could help a farmer, rancher, agricultural worker or even a gardener with a disability," Jones said.

Products include assistive equipment and technology for tractors, livestock handling and housing, trucks, off-road vehicles, shops and shop tools, and more. About 75 percent of the products in "The Toolbox" are sold commercially; the rest are homemade devices the inventors submitted.

"Many of the products in 'The Toolbox' are not specifically designed for people with disabilities," Jones said. "For example, there's a whole section on automatic hitching devices. Those devices are useful to any farmer because they don't require farmers to get off the tractor in order to hitch a wagon, manure spreader or implement."

On the CD, users can view product demonstrations and request additional information from manufacturers.

"We've got hyperlinks to the Web sites of suppliers listed in 'The Toolbox,' and their e-mail addresses are linked, as well," Jones said. "Another feature of the CD that we don't have in the print version is video. We've incorporated several video clips of products. Users can click on a filmstrip icon and see the product in action."

In addition to product information, "The Toolbox" has a section with stories of farmers who overcame disabilities and "Plowshares" - technical articles that address rural assistive technology concepts.

"The Toolbox" CD is available for $25. The CD and a 2000 edition of the print version are available for $80. Orders can be placed by contacting Breaking New Ground toll-free at (800) 825-4264 or by visiting the resource center's Web site.

Breaking New Ground has published three print editions of "The Toolbox." The first edition appeared in 1986. About 3,000 copies of the resource manual have been sold.

Statistics show many farmers could benefit from "The Toolbox."

"We did a survey back in the 1980s indicating that approximately 19 percent of active farm operators in Indiana are not able to perform an essential task due to a disability," Jones said. "Nationwide, we've seen estimates of anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000 farmers and ranchers with disabilities. We also estimate that one in nine farm families experiences some kind of farm-related injury every year. So the prevalence of disability in the farm community is pretty significant."

Not all disabling injuries occur on the farm, Jones said.

"Take spinal cord injuries, for example," he said. "By far the largest source of those injuries is automobile collisions. Other disabilities are the result of diseases such as multiple sclerosis, spina bifida and cerebral palsy. There is a wide range of things that can be considered disabilities."

Jones added that one of the most common and "hidden" disabilities among agricultural workers is arthritis, a disease that can severely limit quality of life and productivity.

Writer: Steve Leer, (765) 494-8415,

Source: Paul Jones, (765) 494-1221,

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes,
Agriculture News Page

Related Web site:
National AgrAbility Program

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