Off-Road Wheelchairs On Display at Ag Expo

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It may look like an obstacle course, by Easter Seals Michigan AgrAbility set up a rodeo course full of mud, sand and sticks at the Ag Expo for a reason.

"Just to give people at the Expo an opportunity to see what it would be like if you had to do your work with a disability," explains Ned Stoller, an agricultural technology specialist at Michigan AgrAbility.

Michigan AgrAbility estimates up to 2,000 Michigan farmers every year have limiting injuries or illnesses, but that doesn't mean they stop getting the job done.

"People with disabilities can work," Stoller says. "You need a different tool box, you got to add a little of this and a little of that, modify the way you do things, but there's jobs to be had, even for the farmer or the tradesman or anybody who wants to keep working."

These modified wheelchairs aren't just for those in agriculture.

"If I were on a countryside, or doing research outside in the field, this would be great because you can maneuver around pretty well," says MSU Geography Professor Morris Thomas, who test-drove an off road wheelchair.

He says it's much easier to navigate rough terrain in it, compared to his regular wheelchair.

"I think having this accessibility is extremely important because you're not tied down," Thomas says. "You can be productive. Plus you feel good about yourself. You can go out and do things, and life is good."

Whether it's farmers, hunters or other outdoors men, equipment like this can make a big difference.

"It just gives great hope," Stoller says. "Get off the couch and get back to work and keep loving life."

You can learn more about modified tools during a session at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

You can test drive the modified wheelchairs during a demonstration at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

Ag Expo runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, July 18.

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