University of Illinois Extension

Disability Services for Farm Families in Illinois


AgrAbility Unlimited, a joint program of the Illinois Cooperative Extension Service and the Illinois Easter Seals Society, seeks to promote independence in agriculture for people with disabilities and their families. Authorized by the 1990 Farm Bill, in 1991 the U.S. Department of Agriculture initiated funding for state-level programs to provide information on accommodating disability in agriculture. Fourteen states are currently operating individually with this funding, and together they represent a common national effort know as the AgrAbility Project.

As one of those states, Illinois now has a service available called AgrAbility Unlimited. The University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service has combined with the Illinois Easter Seals Society to establish this program, which offers comprehensive assistance to individuals and their families engaged in farming or a farm related activity and who have been affected by a disability.

Building on the strength of nationwide informational resources, along with a statewide network of rural health, safety, and social agencies, AgrAbility Unlimited offers individualized services aimed at increasing self-sufficiency and independence.


With AgrAbility Unlimited in the role of a "master link," the program is able to directly connect to a network of service providers, product suppliers, and product manufacturers in order to provide education, information, or support to the extent desired by the individual or the family.

Types of assistance available include:


Illinois is one of the leading agricultural states in the country. Along with that status is the proportionate amount of health risks to those people working in one of the nation's most hazardous occupations. By being involved in such a diverse and highly mechanized industry, Illinois agriculture workers are susceptible to any one of a multiple of work-related injuries or health problems.

Most obviously exposed are the 500,000 farm family members and employees who operate nearly 82,000 farms across the state. Available estimates indicate that each year in Illinois more than 200 farm workers sustain injuries which result in physical disabilities that affect their future income.

Beyond that, health related impairments such as arthritis, stroke, or respiratory ailments can have a similar impact, and are evident in all agriculture occupations.


If there is one thing that farmers have always been aware of, it is that you can never have too much help. Those of us at AgrAbility Unlimited welcome and encourage your participation in any way possible.

Some examples:

Cooperative Agencies

The University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service is the educational outreach arm of the University of Illinois College of Agriculture. Its primary purpose is to disseminate researched based information through its statewide public information system. The Extension Service conducts educational programs in agriculture and natural resources, human resources and family studies, community resource development, and 4-H and youth development. These programs are developed and carried out in virtually every community in Illinois by the Extension faculty members who are currently located in approximately 90 county and regional offices and in 20 academic departments or units on the University of Illinois campus at Champaign-Urbana.

The Illinois Easter Seals Society was officially founded in 1947, based on the principle of providing a community based organization capable of identifying the needs of people with disabilities and then providing rehabilitation services to meet those needs. In 1990 alone, more than 40,000 Illinois residents of all ages with disabilities resulting from any cause received services through one or more of the 13 Easter Seal affiliated centers across the state. Furthermore, as a matter of policy, 75% of all funds raised in a local area are used in that area for direct services to the disabled and their families.

This material is based upon work supported by the Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under special project number 91-EFDA-1-0002. The programs of the University of Illinois and the Illinois Easter Seals Society are available to all people regardless of age, sex, race, color, creed, national origin, or disability.