Pursuing a passion is exhilarating, but attempting that same task with pain or limitations can be a safety concern and sometimes seem impossible.
Easter Seals Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the Mid-Atlantic AgrAbility Project (MAAP), a project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the leadership of the University of Delaware, the University of Maryland and Rutgers University in collaboration with several non-profit disability and health organizations, did not want a spinal injury to stop Don Cunningham, of Greenwood, from pursuing his dreams of farming with his son.
Cunningham’s injury occurred during his time in the Air Force.
A primary consideration for Cunningham, who farms 1000 acres in Sussex County, was minimizing the bouncing and vibration he experienced while operating his tractors and allowing him a rear view of his equipment without the need to turn his head, something he was no longer able to do since his injury.
The AgrAbility Project referred Cunningham to the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation who provided him with an ergonomic suspension replacement seat and a remote controlled mobile video camera system. The seat positions and supports the body to help absorb excessive vibrations and shock. The armrests and high back provide stability for tractor operators with back problems or balance difficulties. The video camera system offers a rear view without the operator leaving the cab or even turning his head. Cunningham received equipment for multiple tractors that he uses for a variety of tasks.
“After the equipment modifications, I logged close to 60 hours in one tractor over a ten day period, more hours than the entire previous year,” Cunningham said. “I never thought that such simple equipment modifications could make such a difference in quality of life. Now I am able to pursue my desire of farming with my son without the fear of compromising my physical safety. AgrAbility provided me the means to a brighter, more productive future.”
The MAAP is part of a national program that promotes independence for farmers, watermen, loggers and poultry growers who want to continue to farm despite physical limits and health conditions. The MAAP’s program goals are to inform, educate and assist farmers and agricultural workers with limitations, as well as their families, so that they can continue to lead successful careers in agriculture.
“The equipment modifications to my tractors restored my desire of farming without limitation,” Cunningham said. “I had always wanted to farm with my son after retiring from the Air Force; however, I was limited in the ability to operate most of the equipment required to contribute to this farming operation.”
For more information about the Mid-Atlantic AgrAbility Project, visit www.mid-atlanticagrability.com, or contact Easter Seals at 1-877-204-3276 (FARM).
Easter Seals offers a range of services, including children’s therapies, assistive technology, recreational camping, day programs for adults with physical or intellectual disabilities and respite services for caregivers. To learn more about how Easter Seals helps children and adults with disabilities, call 1-800-677-3800 or visit www.de.easterseals.com.