Easter Seals Colorado 5755 West Alameda Ave. Lakewood, CO 80226 March 2, 2006 Contact: Pilar Chapa 303 233-1666 ext. 230 Easter Seals Colorado and the AgrAbility Project Help Farmer with Disability Continue to Work the Land Manzanola, CO — After almost two years of struggle, Manzanola farmer Bert Nesselhuf has a new lease on life. Bert Nesselhuf has Multiple Sclerosis but with the help of the Easter Seals Colorado (ESC) AgrAbility Project and the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitaion (DVR), Nesselhuf can continue to work the land that has been in his family for over 50 years. “My father was a farmer, I’m a farmer and my son is a farmer.” states Nesslehuf. “It’s what we are.” Having purchased his own farm immediately after High School, Nesselhuf has known no other life than that of a farmer. He now runs his farm and the farm that belonged to his parents. Being a wheelchair user for over 5 years, it became more and more difficult for Nesselhuf to do the work that he loves. But, it wasn’t until he broke his leg in November 2004, that he seriously believed he would not be able to continue farming his land. “Because he lost so much of his mobility, I needed to go everywhere with him,” states Ellen Nesselhuf, Berts wife. “We have a mini-van that was modified for his wheelchair, but that didn’t work too well on the farm.” It wasn’t until a friend gave his name to Jason Beck, AgrAbility Project Coordinator with Easter Seals Colorado, that other avenues were researched. AgrAbility, a program sponsored by Colorado State University Cooperative Extension and Easter Seals Colorado, helps make it possible for farmers, ranchers and their families, who are facing new obstacles due to injury or disability stay in this demanding line of work. Beck contacted Nesselhuf and visited his farm. After evaluating Nesselhuf’s situation, Beck made an assessment of what was needed to keep Nesslehuf working his farm. Beck coordinated with ESC Rural Rehab Specialist Bill Tiffany, to design and implement modifications to any farming equipment he might need. “After evaluating Mr. Nesselhuf’s needs, it was decided he needed a vehicle that he could drive from his wheelchair.” says Bill Tiffany. “He needed something that would give him independence.” Easter Seals Colorado had donated an electric wheelchair that gave Nesselhuf more freedom, so when Bill located the Kawasaki Mule, he designed the modifications that would accommodate it. He found that if the front seat was removed, the electric wheelchair fit perfectly. He then consulted with Mueller’s Auto Inc. in Pueblo, CO to do the modifications. A ramp was then attached. Nesslehuf can now get on and off the Mule by himself. “This has opened up the world to him,” states Ellen, “It’s given him back his independence. It’s a whole new life for him” With the support of the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, AV Hunter Trust and the Friends of Man, Nesselhuf received the modified Kawasaki Mule on February 22, 2006. “It’s been a really long process”, states Beck. “But it’s been well worth it. That’s what the AgrAbility Project is about. We have to do everything possible to help farmers and ranchers continue to do the work they love.” AgrAbility is a nationwide program that provides information, services and education to agricultural families with one or more people who are affected by physical limitations or disabilities. Injuries and disabilities that Colorado AgrAbility works with can include back pain and injury, Multiple Sclerosis, knee and shoulder pain, visual impairment, spinal cord injury, stroke, diabetes, hearing impairments and amputations. “There are so many farming accidents and injuries that need our attention,” states Rhonda Covington, DVR Counselor. “It’s great to be able to work hand in hand with an organization like Easter Seals Colorado and the AgrAbility Project. For more information on the Colorado AgrAbility Project, contact Jason Beck at Easter Seals Colorado at (303)233-1666 ext.224. Started out with the four seat Kawasaki Mule 3010 4x4 The fuel tank, battery, and some electronics are under the front seat. Relocated the fuel tank to the bed, moved electronics and battery as far to the left side as possible and raised parking brake a small amount. Some wires had to be lengthened and a brace had to be added to attach components. Fuel tank in bed mounted with filler towards the front so the bed could still dump without spilling. The original mounting hardware was used in the bed. The fuel line was ran through grommets to prevent and rubbing. The line was ran with the tail light wiring so it wouldn’t get pinched when the bed is raised. The roll over bar on the right side was cut and angled back to attach to the rear bar. The bar on the left side is left in the original position. This will still protect the passenger in the event of roll over. The bolts in the floor were replaced with round head bolts to make it easier to roll over them in a wheelchair. Hand controls were installed and the pedals were cut shorter so they wouldn’t be in the way. Their was jest enough room to get a power wheelchair in the mule. We added a swivel base to the wheelchair seat so he could turn under the steering wheel. It would work better if the mule was lengthened a bit. A person with a manual could pivot the chair into position with out much difficulty but again if the mule was stretched a bit it would be easier.
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