I am paralyzed from the waist down, and I want to get a tractor for use on my horse farm. Is there any way it can be made to be completely hand-operated?

  1. First, a tractor with a hydrostatic transmission would be convenient, since no clutch engagement is required.
  2. A hand control can be made by attaching a bent rod by means of a bracket to the foot pedal for the clutch, brake, or hydrostatic transmission. The rod can be clamped onto the foot pedal and bent to come up to a convenient location for hand operation. An article with color pictures and evaluation of different designs of bent-rod hand controls can be found at asae.frymulti.com by typing "Evaluation of Mechanical Tractor Pedal Extensions" in the "with-the-exact-phrase" search window, click "GO" then "download pdf."
  3. A few companies make custom-manufactured hand controls for tractors or perhaps provide design plans that you or a local machinist could use to make the conversion. Three such companies are Life Essentials of Brookston, IN (765-742-6707 or www.lifeesstentialsweb.com); John Hancock of Lexington, KY (859-227-7099), and Northend Mobility of Welland, Ontario (905-735-5552 or www.northend-mobility.com).
  4. Two companies make joystick controls for cars and trucks that could possibly be adapted for tractors—Electronic Mobility Controls (www.emc-digi.com) and Creative Controls (www.creativecontrolsinc.com). Also, Butterfield, MN, farmer Dale Baerg, with quadriplegia, has tractors that have been modified for joystick control and he is willing to share with and help others, he can be reached at 507-956-2074.
  5. The Breaking New Ground (BNG) Resource Center at Purdue University has two entries in its Plowshares Technical Reports series that that you might find beneficial—"Hand Controls for Agricultural Equipment" (Plowshare #2) and "Farming with a Lower Extremity Amputation" (Plowshare #24). They can be viewed and downloaded from the Center's Web site—www.breakingnewground.info.
  6. BNG also developed the "Toolbox," which is a CD-ROM and on-line catalog of commercial and farmer-modified equipment and assistive devices for farming with a disability. It includes fact sheets that show tractor, utility vehicle, and lawn tractor foot-to-hand control modifications. Your county Extension office and local high school agricultural education teacher should have a copy of the CD to view (perhaps borrow), or you can access it (in pdf format) on www.bng.info.
  7. The University of Wisconsin Extension AgrAbility Web site carries an article on a homemade hand-operated clutch lever that you might find helpful. Go to fyi.uwex.edu/agrability and click on "Assistive Technology Resources," then on "Plans for Equipment Modifications."