by Andy Rausch and Joe Reinecker -- Kansas AgrAbility, a government-funded program which provides information and assistance to farmers with disabilities and limitations, is holding a virtual state fair this month.
The AgrAbility program was first brought to life through the 1990 Farm Bill. Through the program, disabled farmers and ranchers are provided assistance—often through assistive technology—so they can be successful and productive members of the farming community. Common disabilities and conditions Kansas AgrAbility program participants face are arthritis, amputation, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, stroke, diabetes, respiratory problems, and visual or hearing loss. Some of the services AgrAbility offers are on-site assessments to identify barriers and challenges, referrals on agriculture, safety, and disabilities, recommendations for appropriate assistive technologies (such as equipment, devices, or modified working methods), and peer support to connect farmers.
This month is the 75th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, as well as the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This is the first AgrAbility virtual fair.
“AgrAbility has 19 states that are represented,” explains Tawnie Larson, Kansas AgrAbility project coordinator. “We all get together and talk—the marketing people—and I think it was Pennsylvania who suggested, 'You know, none of us are getting to go to the state fair and share AgrAbility with everyone like we usually do, so let's have a virtual state fair. Everyone else is doing virtual stuff, so why not?'”
The way this works is, the national AgrAbility program is holding one long fair that lasts throughout the month of October. Each of the 19 state chapters have their own day to share information virtually. Kansas' day to share is Thursday, October 22nd.
“Our day is going to consist a lot of sharing assistive technology, which we have used with our customers and had success with,” Larson says. “That way we can share that not only with the other states, but also with people who follow them and national AgrAbility as well.”
Those interested in the fair can find out more and follow the event at Kansas AgrAbility's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AgrAbility-Virtual-State-Fair-105811844494828.
“Here at Kansas AgrAbility, our staff is really excited,” Larson says. “They've all made videos and we've put that all together and we're excited to share that with other states. We're also excited about what we can learn from them and their followers, so I think we'll have a bigger audience than we typically would if we just shared it on our site. We're pretty active on social media, but this is an opportunity for us all to come together and sort of concentrate everything into one time period.”