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Program promotes ag success for disabled
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When AgrAbility fitted a step onto Donald Vowell's all-terrain vehicle, he joined the group of about 60 Mississippians served by this program for people with a disability who live or work on farms.
Vowell, an Ackerman native, was 20 when he suffered a spinal cord injury in a car wreck. He was paralyzed from the chin down, but five months of spinal cord rehabilitation helped him learn to walk again.
"Now I can walk with the aid of a cane -- not real good, not real far, not real fast -- but I can do it," Vowell said.
Vowell's family has a cattle farm in Choctaw County. He uses the ATV to get around the farm and to do some chores such as feeding and herding the cows.
Vowell contacted AgrAbility through his local county Extension office. AgrAbility representatives were able to modify his ATV, giving him increased independence.
"They helped me put a step on it so I can get on and off it by myself," Vowell said.
Vowell earned his undergraduate degree from Mississippi State University in general business administration in 2001. He will graduate with a master's of business administration from MSU in May.
AgrAbility is a partnership of the MSU Extension Service, MSU's T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability and the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services. It began in Mississippi in 1997 as an educational service to those with disabilities who live or work on farms.
Emily Knight, AgrAbility program assistant, said AgrAbility typically serves to link people with disabilities to those organizations and services that can help them best. The service is free and is focused on promoting success in agriculture for people with disabilities, and their families.
"Keeping disabled people in their farm setting is not only good for their self-esteem, but for those who have families, it allows them to continue providing for them," Knight said. "It also benefits the community because they are able to continue providing the agricultural product or service they had previously."
For more information on AgrAbility, contact the local county Extension office or Knight at (601) 736-8251.