I have a hard time getting into my tractor, and combine. Are there any design plans or companies that build lifts?
There are a number of small companies that custom-manufacture farm machinery adaptive devices, including man-lifts to access operator stations of farm equipment and large trucks. Among them are Life Essentials, of Brookston, IN (by phone @ 765-742-6707 or on the Web @ www.lifeessentialsweb.com) and John Hancock, of Lexington, KY (by phone @ 859-227-7099). They will discuss your needs and suggest possible solutions, including building one for your specific situation. Also, Life Essentials can install one on the back of a pickup or flat-bed truck that can be used to access tractors or combines.
Detailed instructions to build a man lift for a tractor can be found on a Kentucky AgrAbility Web site at: Kentucky Agrability tractor lift. WARNING, when using a winch for a lift, it is important to verify the winch load capacity and certification for lifting people.
For lighter and less expensive lifts that might be more compatible with smaller-size vehicles and equipment, check out: the Coach Lift, made by SS Products, of Tempe, AZ (by phone @ 888-224-1425 or on the Web @ www.coachlift.com and click on "Farm Handicapped Lift") and the Glide 'n Go Power Seat Lift, made by Access Unlimited, of Binghamton, NY (by phone @ 800-849-2143 or on the Web @ www.accessunlimited.com and click on "Other Vehicle Products).
Atom-Jet Industries makes the Ajility lift that mounts into the back of a pickup truck that lifts a person and his/her wheelchair to access the operator station of farm equipment. Contact them by phone @ 800-573-5048 or on the Web @ www.atomjet.com.
The Breaking New Ground Resource Center at Purdue University also has printed materials that address this topic. They include the following four fact sheets found in The Toolbox (a CD-ROM and on-line catalog of modified equipment and assistive devices for farming with a disability): "Commercially Manufactured Lifts," "Independent Mounted Lifts," "Equipment-Mounted Chair Lifts," and "Equipment-Mounted Platform Lifts". Also in The Toolbox is a publication in the Plowshare Technical Reports series—"New Concepts in Man-Lift Attachments for Tractors and Combines" (#8). Your county Extension office and local high school agricultural education teacher should have a copy of The Toolbox CD to review (or perhaps borrow); also you can access it (in pdf format) on BNG's Web site—www.bngtoolbox.info.
The University of Wisconsin Extension AgrAbility Web site also has published articles on the subject of man-lifts. Go to fyi.uwex.edu/agrability and click on "AgrAbility Quarterly;" then under "Past Issues—2001," click on "Commercial Person Tractor Lifts."
There's a possibility that your state's rehabilitation services or vocational rehabilitation program will purchase, or at least help you purchase the man-lift(s). To find out, contact them either by phone (look in the yellow pages under "Government, State" or in a separate section ahead of the white pages that lists state government offices) or via the Web (go to www.agrability.org and click on "Resources" then "Vocational Rehabilitation contact information."
* Note: When modifying a tractor or other self-propelled equipment for use by someone with a mobility impairment, extra precautions are needed to reduce the risk of injury.