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Back on the Farm: AgrAbility Program Offers Options for Farmers Following a Disabling Injury or Disease

ATLANTA - (March 2, 2009) - In partnership with the University of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s AgrAbility program, Shepherd Center is helping farmers and ranchers continue in their profession following rehabilitation for a disabling injury or disease.

AgrAbility, which is a free service, promotes independence for people in the agricultural industry who have disabilities. An effort in Georgia has program partners conducting training sessions for healthcare providers, who play an important role in preparing agricultural workers to return to home and work.

“By combining Shepherd’s expertise in rehabilitation with AgrAbility’s expertise in agricultural assistive technology, we are able to offer insightful training that illustrates how farmers can successfully continue farming after the onset of a health condition or disabling injury,” says Becky Brightwell, associate director of the UGA Institute on Human Development and Disability and the Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service.

At Shepherd Center, Spinal Cord Injury Program therapy manager Myrtice Atrice serves as the liaison between the hospital and the AgrAbility program. Atrice, who has worked at Shepherd for 28 years, has extensive experience in training, teaching and running clinics. She also grew up on a farm in south Georgia and has a strong personal passion to assist farmers, she says.

Atrice is playing a major role in planning and conducting four, one-day training sessions – in conjunction with the AgrAbility in Georgia staff – that will be presented to healthcare workers in strategic locations around rural Georgia.

In addition, Atrice promotes the AgrAbility partnership between Shepherd Center and UGA, and meets with Shepherd Center patients who are farmers or ranchers to discuss the program and assist as needed.

AgrAbility staff can help farmers design and customize plans based on the type of farming operation or job tasks they need to perform. Plans may include worksite modification, peer support, job restructuring, and equipment purchase or modification. Staff can help identify funding, services and resources. Also, they can help with stress management, community and healthcare coordination.

“When we go visit someone at their farm or ranch, we try to take in the whole picture,” Brightwell explains. “A person may need a business plan for stability and growth, assistive technology to make their job easier or training to prevent secondary injury. Once we have worked with the individual to identify their needs, the AgrAbility staff works to bring the necessary resources together.” Giving agricultural workers with a disability a chance to succeed is integral to a healthy rural economy, she adds.

For more information on the program at Shepherd Center, email Myrtice Atrice or call 404-350-7487. Or, go to and /or To contact the AgrAbility staff at UGA, call 706-542-0304 or toll free at 1-877-524-6264.

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.