By Sharry Nielsen
Assistive Technology? Does it sound like something from the latest animated film? Or, maybe what you’d use to give your computer extra memory or storage space? AT is actually something folks with a disability use to get a job done – and often something others could use as preventive measures for chronic health conditions.
In a strict sense, assistive technology is any tool that helps a person with a disability perform a task or activity of daily living. It can be what we typically think of as a tool – a hammer, shovel or broom – or very specialized equipment to help with a specific need, such as a chair lift or a telephone reader for someone who is hearing impaired.
In a broader sense, AT may be useful for many jobs to help prevent such conditions as arthritis or chronic back pain. Think about the following as you consider the jobs you need to get done on your farm, ranch or acreage.
D-Grip or other added handle for use on shovels, brooms and other long-handled tools allows the user to accomplish a task without the traditional strain on back muscles. .
For someone with chronic back pain, it may mean the difference between shoveling grain or snow and hiring it done. For someone without pain, it can be what allows you to continue shoveling for years unimpaired.
Anti-vibration gloves help a person with arthritis use his power tools, but can cushion the joints of any farmer or rancher to help prevent arthritis.
Ergonomic tools, available at many hardware stores, are essential for someone who has reduced small motor skills to hammer nails, use a screwdriver, or plant her garden.
They can also be the items that keep someone doing those tasks for years without pain.
Extra steps on a tractor may be the only way someone with muscular dystrophy can “climb” into his tractor, even though any farmer or acreage owner might prevent a chronic condition with lower steps from the onset.
ATV thumb assists can be used by a person with arthritic hands to operate his machine to be able to irrigate or feed cattle.
Like ergonomic tools, this may be the item that keep a farmer on his ATV for years without pain.
Preventing injuries and chronic health conditions may well begin with the use of assistive technology before the need arises. Use tools and equipment that protect hands, joints, back and other parts of the body proactively, before a disabling condition makes it necessary to do so.
For an extensive data base of assistive technology to help accomplish tasks, or to help prevent chronic conditions, see the Tool Box at the Indiana AgrAbility web site, http://www.agrability.org/Toolbox/, or contact Nebraska AgrAbility at firstname.lastname@example.org.