The Missouri AgrAbility Project is about creating success in agriculture, employment and rural life for people with disabilities or chronic health conditions and their families. It links MU Extension with a nonprofit disability organization to provide practical education and assistance that promotes rural independence.

AgrAbility staff members provide educational workshops, on-site farmstead assessments, off-site visits, technical assistance recommendations, and resource materials to farmers, ranchers, farmworkers and family members who are limited by any type of physical, cognitive, illness-related disability, or chronic health condition.

A recent study estimated that between 1.04 million to 2.23 million individuals in the U.S. agricultural population have a disability that affects their work or activities of daily living. The average age of American farmers and ranchers continues to climb. With this comes a variety of age-related disabilities, such as hearing loss, visual impairments, and arthritis – the most prevalent disabling condition in the U.S. For many of these individuals, the presence of a disability or chronic health condition can jeopardize their rural and agricultural futures. Rural isolation, a tradition of self-reliance, and gaps in rural service delivery systems frequently prevent agricultural workers with disabilities from taking advantage of the growing expertise in modifying farm operations, adapting equipment, promoting farmstead accessibility,

and using assistive technologies to safely accommodate disabilities in agricultural and rural settings. Yet, with some assistance, these individuals can safely and effectively continue to earn their livelihoods in production agriculture and participate fully in rural community life. The AgrAbility Project assists people involved in production agriculture who work on small and large agricultural operations.

The Missouri AgrAbility Project offers a variety of services, at no cost to customers including

Conducting onsite farmstead assessments to identify barriers to completing essential everyday tasks, both in the agricultural workplace and the home.

Recommending safe and appropriate assistive technologies (equipment/devices), efficient modified work practices, and other effective solutions to overcoming disability-related limitations.

Providing access to informational resource materials on a variety of topics related to agriculture and disability.

Providing face-to-face educational training opportunities through workshops, conferences, and seminars as well as online blogs and programs.

Referring customers to other service providers for potential assistance such as counseling, educational, financial, occupational, rehabilitative services specific to the client’s needs.

Arranging for peer support networking to connect customers with others who have successfully accommodated their disabilities.

The Missouri AgrAbility Project does not provide direct funding or equipment. However, the Project works with third-party funding sources to help customers potentially obtain needed assistive technologies adapted devices, or modifications.

If you are interested in AgrAbility project, please email Agrablity@Missouri.edu or contact your local MU Extension office to learn more. University of Missouri Extension programs are open to all.

Valerie Tate is an agronomist, with the University of Missouri Extension.