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Assistive technology makes farming safer for Ohio man impacted by shingles

Doug Swaim using his deck step trailer ladder while working at his Hickory Dell Farm in Cedarville, Ohio. Doug Swaim using his deck step trailer ladder while working at his Hickory Dell Farm in Cedarville, Ohio.

Doug Swaim of Cedarville, Ohio, has been farming for more than 30 years. Doug’s son and a family friend work alongside him at Hickory Dell Farms, which includes 2,500 acres of corn, soybeans, and hay as well as two barns for hog contracts.
Doug came to Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) in November 2019 after being diagnosed with hearing loss in his right ear and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo due to vestibular disorderollowing hospitalization for shingles. Because of these conditions, Doug is easily fatigued, experiences dizziness, and can lose his balance.
After months of balance therapy and medical appointments, a doctor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center suggested he contact Ohio AgrAbility.

OOD and Ohio AgrAbility assist OOD participants who want to continue to farm after acquiring a disability. Ohio AgrAbillity is operated as a partnership between The Ohio State University and Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati.
“We help by writing a farm assessment that helps OOD Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors understand what it is like to live and work on a farm,” said Rachel Jarman, Rural Rehabilitation Coordinator for Ohio AgrAbility-Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati. “We also offer suggestions for assistive technology and any other solutions for the farmer.”
Doug agreed to meet with Jessie Schumann, OOD Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, and Rachel to discuss his situation.
“Being a farmer, I initially balked at the idea that I would need any help. I was determined to work through this health issue on my own and be just fine,” said Doug. “But, when the three of us met and discussed my situation as a farmer and how my balance impacted my daily work, I realized that they had my best interest at heart.”
OOD has provided Doug with a ClearMotion Active Suspension Seat for his semi-truck, which prevents him from moving up and down when in motion and driving over uneven terrain.  Two deck step ladders help him access his flatbed trailers and assist when loading and unloading equipment. Doug also received a wireless Bluetooth headset that allows him to access hands-free calling while safely operating his semi-truck.
“Doug’s commitment to his work has been an inspiration to me, and it is rewarding to see how the adaptive equipment is already making a difference.  This successful outcome was only possible from a true collaboration between Doug, OOD, and Ohio AgrAbility,” said Jessie.
“OOD and Ohio AgrAbility helped improve my working environment, making it safer so that I can continue farming with my son and friend, which is the work I love,” added Doug.

This story originally appeard in the "Ohio Works" newsletter from Opportunities with Ohioans with Disabilities.

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