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Purdue programs continue helping those with need

Photos by Tom J. Bechman Bill Field, head of Purdue ag safety programs, prepares to demonstrate a chair lift
CHAIR LIFT: Bill Field, head of Purdue ag safety programs, prepares to demonstrate a chair lift. This is the smallest tractor his team has mounted a lift on to date.
Purdue ag safety staff mount a chair lift on a small utility tractor.

Learning about people in need and helping them access equipment that will make their lives easier and help them continue to live as normally as possible is what Purdue University’s AgrAbility program is all about. Bill Field, who helped pioneer the program more than three decades ago, continues to look for ways to innovate.

Field, coordinator of Purdue ag safety programs, recently demonstrated a tractor lift made by Life Essentials. Thousands of the units are in use, primarily on larger farm tractors and combines. They help people with disabilities access tractor and combine seats so they can continue farming and leading as normal lives as possible.

Recently, Field’s team mounted a unit on the smallest tractor they have outfitted with the chair lift. He demonstrated how it’s operated by remote control. Graham Curtis, 12, the author’s grandson, sat in the seat to show how it works. The unit lifted him up and over the seat, then lowered him into place, as Field gave signals with the remote.

Bill Field operates remote controls that will lift Graham Curtis up and over the tractor platform

PREPARING TO LIFT: Bill Field operates remote controls that will lift Graham Curtis up and over the tractor platform. Curtis is the author’s grandson.


Renewed funding

Field notes that they received word recently that the AgrAbility program at Purdue University has received $2,124,000 in funding for the National AgrAbility Project and $720,000 for Indiana AgrAbility from USDA and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This will allow them to continue helping people with disabilities both in Indiana and across the country, he says.

Field was instrumental in obtaining national funding through Congress for the national effort in the 1990s. Since then, Purdue has directed the program at the national level most of the time.   

Paul Jones, project manager for the National AgrAbility Project and education and resource specialist for Indiana AgrAbility, says the funding supports both projects’ work through 2025.  

“Our team in ABE [Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering] is thankful to receive both the Indiana AgrAbility grant and the national AgrAbility grant,” Jones says. Purdue’s Breaking New Ground Resource Center will again be the lead agency for the grants.  

Stress-related impairments have become a more significant focus for AgrAbility. “Mental health is becoming an increasingly critical area,” Jones says. “We used to focus primarily on physical issues — disabilities, spinal cord injuries, amputations, arthritis and so on — but now there needs to be a greater focus on stress-related impairments.”  

The National AgrAbility Project will work to support other state projects around the country and offer limited services to farmers in states without an AgrAbility project.  

Information provided by the Purdue News Service contributed to this article.

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