International Impact: AgrAbility reaches out to the world

Two young men in India constructing wheelchair out of plastic lawn chair and bicycle tiresSam Mathew was born in India but came to the U.S. and eventually became a vocational rehabilitation counselor and later an AgrAbility staff member. When he earned his Ph.D. at Purdue University and felt the call to return to India, he didn’t leave AgrAbility behind. Now the executive director of India’s National Institute of Speech and Hearing, Sam recently collaborated with the National AgrAbility Project to train more than 80 rehabilitation professionals in India on low-cost assistive technology that could be fabricated locally.

This is just one example of AgrAbility’s international outreach. In all, AgrAbility staff members have provided training in more than 10 countries, including Australia, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Sweden, and Ukraine. Recently, a workshop on returning injured farmers to work was conducted for over 20 vocational rehabilitation counselors in Porvoo, Finland. Also, information and onsite consulting were provided to a Swedish fabricator who has modified more than 15 pieces of off-highway equipment, such as a back hoe, log skidder, and combine, for an eighth-generation dairyman who continues to farm with paraplegia. In addition, on-site consulting services were provided to a young farmer from Wales who now operates a modified tractor, allowing him to return to farming after a spinal cord injury.

Disability crosses all divides – international, political, racial, religious, cultural, economic – and has a profound impact on those exposed to the hazards associated with agricultural production. While AgrAbility can’t address all potential barriers, it can provide a measure of hope and help when disability occurs.

Below is a video clip of Project Director Bill Field working with a lift fabricator in Sweden.