Program Description

Mission

The vision of AgrAbility is to enhance quality of life for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers with disabilities, so that they, their families, and their communities continue to succeed in rural America. For this target audience, “success” may be defined by many parameters, including: gainful employment in production agriculture or a related occupation; access to appropriate assistive technology needed for work and daily living activities; evidence-based information related to the treatment and rehabilitation of disabling conditions; and targeted support for family caregivers of AgrAbility customers. AgrAbility addresses a wide variety of disabling conditions in agriculture, including, but not limited to:

  • Arthritis
  • Spinal cord injuries/paralysis
  • Back impairments
  • Amputations
  • Brain injury
  • Visual impairments
  • Hearing impairments
  • Disabling diseases
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Respiratory impairments
  • Head injury

Priorities of AgrAbility

In fulfilling this mission, AgrAbility:

  • Develops service capacity through innovative educational programs designed to advance individual capabilities, adapt new technologies, and deliver program content through appropriate educational venues
  • Encourages networking to facilitate information sharing, the provision of services, and funding from individuals or organizations not employed by AgrAbility
  • Provides direct services to agricultural workers through individual consultations and other means

Structure of AgrAbility

AgrAbility consists of the National AgrAbility Project (NAP) and State/Regional AgrAbility Projects (SRAPs). Both the NAP and all the SRAPs must be partnerships between a land grant university and at least one nonprofit disability organization. All AgrAbility Projects report to the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service in Washington, D.C.

History of AgrAbility

AgrAbility came into existence through the 1990 Farm Bill, and the first eight SRAPs were funded in 1991. At that time, the NAP was led by Purdue University’s Breaking New Ground Resource Center in partnership with Easter Seals (national office). Funding continued to grow, and by 2000, 18 SRAPs were funded. At that time, leadership for the NAP moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in continued partnership with Easter Seals. Currently, there are 21 USDA-funded SRAPs providing services in 22 states, plus several unfunded affiliates serving other states via other funding sources. The NAP moved back to Purdue University in 2008, with partnering organizations Goodwill Industries International, the Arthritis Foundation-Indiana Chapter, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. As of 2022, the NAP partners include Purdue University’s Breaking New Ground Resource Center, Goodwill of the Finger Lakes, Osteoarthritis Action Alliance, AgriSafe Network, Colorado State University, and Washington State University. Prior to AgrAbility, several states had programs that assisted agricultural workers with disabilities, including Indiana (Breaking New Ground), Vermont, and Iowa.

AgrAbility and Underserved Populations

Since its establishment, the AgrAbility Program has provided services to agricultural workers with disabilities from many racial and cultural backgrounds. In 2014, with funding from USDA, the CHS Foundation, and the Farmer Veteran Coalition, two new staff members were hired to help the NAP significantly expand its outreach to several underserved populations:

  • African American farmers in conjunction with the 1890 land grant institutions
  • Farmer veterans in collaboration with the Farmer Veteran Coalition
  • Native Americans in conjunction with the 1994 land grant institutions
  • Hispanic/Latino agricultural workers in cooperation with organizations serving them

Getting Assistance

If you are an agricultural worker needing assistance, use the contact list see if your state has an AgrAbility Project. If not, please contact the NAP or one of the other organizations listed for your state. AgrAbility Projects generally do not provide direct funding to agricultural workers for adaptive equipment and other goods or services. Instead, such funding is often provided by state departments of vocational rehabilitation services (VR). For more information about VR, see the VR resource page.

Starting an AgrAbility Project

For information on starting an AgrAbility Project in your state, view the most recent Request for Applications (RFA) that describes what is required to submit an application for a new AgrAbility Project. The next RFA for state AgrAbility Projects is anticipated in fall 2022. The RFA for the National AgrAbility Project is anticipated in 2024.