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Illinois AgrAbility provides assistive technology to farmers statewide

A farmer wearing a hearing aid while doing outdoor chores at a chicken coop.

URBANA, Ill. — Stepping in to assist farmers through research, conversation, knowledge, and assistance devices is how Illinois AgrAbility continues to work alongside farmers across the state of Illinois. Together, the two work together to enhance everyday experiences of the farming livelihood.  

Illinois AgrAbility is a University of Illinois Extension affiliate program geared towards farmers, veterans in farming, and farmworkers who have experienced an age or injury-related disability or are experiencing a chronic illness that precludes them from continuing their work in production agriculture. The program offers education and assistance to eliminate barriers, accommodate limitations, and help these individuals continue farming.

“Farm site visits are one of our most popular resources provided by AgrAbility,” said Haley Jones, program coordinator for Illinois AgrAbility. “We are able to see and learn about the barriers and limitations that the farmer might be dealing with on the farm, and often, we can provide solutions and modifications in the form of assistive technology.”

Assistive technology is a technology used by individuals with disabilities to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. These can range from wheelchairs and hearing aids to speech recognition software and ramps. To better meet the needs of its AgrAbility clients, Illinois AgrAbility, along with one of its partner organizations, Illinois Assistive Technology Program, have incorporated assistive technology tools and devices related to agriculture into IATP’s existing Device Loan Library both online and at IATP’s location in Springfield.

The mission of IATP is to provide Illinoisans of all ages with disabilities and health conditions greater access to assistive technology devices and services to enhance their independence and participation in all aspects of life. “We offer several programs and services for our clients to learn about and try AT devices, says Nikki Schultz, IATP device loan coordinator. “Our device loan program is heavily utilized here at IATP.” 

IATP’s device loan program lets borrowers trial devices in the environments of their choice so that they may make informed decisions about what best meets their needs before purchasing a device from a vendor. The device loan program can also provide a backup system when a device is in for repairs or while waiting for a device to be delivered.

“When I am engaging in outreach activities across the state for Illinois AgrAbility, where our primary audience is the farming population, I always share about the device loan program offered by IATP as a great solution for education and access to assistive technology devices,” says Jones. “However, it was clear that to entice our audience to check out IATP and its resources, we needed to be able to offer some agricultural-related tools and devices that could be useful to the farmer outside on their farms.” 

Utilizing funds from the Illinois AgrAbility Foundation, Illinois AgrAbility purchased 12 different tools and devices that can be used within the agricultural industry. Recently purchased devices added to Illinois AgrAbility’s inventory include cooling vests, auxiliary handles, backup cameras, and battery-powered heated gloves. The assistive technology devices can be utilized by any client, farmer or not, but might be more popular for those working outside on the farm. 

Clients interested in learning more about IATP’s over 1,000 assistive technology tools and devices, both agricultural and in and around the home, can visit their Springfield location or check out their website at IATP’s device loan program is free and easy to use. All device loans are for six weeks unless otherwise specified. The only cost the borrower will incur is the return shipment.

“We can rely on IATP for their extensive knowledge and expertise in assistive technology practices regarding those with disabilities and limitations,” says Jones. “But together, both organizations share the goal of improving the daily needs and overall quality of life for clients so that they can continue doing what they love.” 

In partnership with Illinois Extension, Illinois Assistive Technology Program, and Community Health Partnership of Illinois, Illinois AgrAbility is ready to serve farmers across the state. If you or someone you know within the agricultural industry needs assistance, please visit and complete the brief client intake form at

For questions, contact AgrAbility staff by email at or by calling 217-244-2948.

SOURCE/WRITER: Haley Jones, Illinois AgrAbility program coordinator, Illinois Extension 

About AgrAbility: Illinois AgrAbility provides direct services and solutions to farmers, veterans, and farmworkers in Illinois with disabilities so they can maintain their independence and continue farming. Illinois AgrAbility is a program within Illinois Extension. It is funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under sponsored project number 2022-41590-38130.

About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.