An assessment process to estimate the secondary injury potential of assistive technology adopted by farmers with disabilities

Samuel Narinchil Mathew, Purdue University

Abstract

Farmers with disabilities frequently fabricate or modify devices and worksites - referred to collectively as assistive technology (AT) in order to continue performing required tasks on their farms. In some cases these AT have been documented to cause secondary injury. Further, some farmers having disabilities are not able to fully benefit from traditional funding sources, such as vocational rehabilitation agencies, because such one-of-a-kind or personally fabricated technologies fall outside “normally” funded services whose primary concerns include the reliability of the AT and/or the potential liability issues if injuries occur. It is believed that an assessment process with the appropriate empirical support to indicate the potential for secondary injuries with a reasonable degree of reliability may decrease the frequency and severity of injuries as well as reduce barriers to achieving employment and independence. Also, the validated assessment process can be a resource to train rehabilitation professionals in identifying potential injury hazards on both commercially available and locally fabricated AT used in the farm workplace. Hence the research goal was ‘to develop a strategy supported by empirical data to identify potential AT-related hazards and the potential for work-related secondary injuries for farmers who adopt personally or locally fabricated AT to compensate for disabling conditions, through a consistent assessment process’. On-site case studies of 19 farmers with disabilities who fabricated AT for personal use were completed, and potential causative factors for secondary injuries were identified. A survey of 43 rehabilitation professionals, experienced in working with farmers having disabilities, was conducted to identify their perception of the significance of injury causative factors identified from the case studies. Relevant ASABE and SAE standards, OSHA workplace safety regulations and current agricultural workplace safe work practices were referenced to assess compliance with applicable safety standards and as a source of the state-of-the-art design practices. A prototype of the assessment process was developed and the same was validated using an expert panel consisting of six rehabilitation professionals evaluating nine different ATs. The desired outcomes included steps to (a) minimize secondary injuries caused by ATs, (b) help farmers with disabilities obtain funding for the purchase or fabrication of ATs, and (c) train rehabilitation professionals who work with farmers to identify potential disability-related hazards. Dissemination of the assessment process has been started with presentations to AgrAbility professionals involved in rehabilitation of farmers with disabilities, and also presentations at workshops and conferences.^

Degree

Ph.D.

Advisors

Lyle L. Lloyd, Purdue University, Willam E. Field, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Education, Adult and Continuing|Education, Agricultural|Education, Special|Education, Technology of

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