Access to Hope
Visiting Nurse Association and Easterseals Nebraska work together to ensure all people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to live, learn, work and play. People like Rod Peterson carry out a unique extension of this mission in Nebraska. Rod is a rural rehabilitation specialist with AgrAbility, a USDA-funded program that partners with UNL Extension and VNA/Easterseals.
Rod’s extensive farming and ranching background makes him a great representative of the AgrAbility program. The program supports farmers and ranchers impacted by health conditions or disabilities by recommending devices or techniques that help them continue their work. Rod finds a lot of fulfillment in his role. He knows, to his clients, it’s more than their job. It’s their home, identity and deep-rooted tradition.
Oftentimes, his clients don’t want to ask for help. Rod gets most of his referrals from concerned wives, mothers or physical therapists. Many humble clients don’t believe that they deserve it, but Rod reminds them that they’ve given back to their communities throughout their lives, and now it’s their turn to accept assistance.
Rod has helped many farmers and ranchers throughout his 18 years with the program, but one case stands out in particular. A car accident caused a young man to lose his leg mobility and some of his arm use. Rod worked with the man’s father to create a more accessible work environment and connected with the State of Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation Services to make several recommendations, including a lift that would give the son access to his tractors and combine.
The day the lift was delivered, Rod helped train the father and son on how to use it. As Rod was leaving, the father broke down in tears. He didn’t think his son could ever get into a tractor again.
“I’m able to do this work because of the connections between the USDA, AgrAbility, Easterseals and VNA,” Rod said. “Our collaboration serves these communities in amazing ways and allows them to continue being successful in doing what they love.”
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