Disability Work Tools In The Beginning
by Ned Stoller, founder of Disability Work Tools
Personal Assistive Technology Consultation has been one of the top 3 goals of DisabilityWorkTools.com from the beginning, because it is the conviction the Lord placed on my heart in the beginning. In 1997 I was graduating from Purdue University with a degree in Agricultural Engineering and desired to work directly with people. I did not want to sit in a cubicle designing pistons, I wanted to touch people’s lives and personally share the love of Christ in my work.
I had no idea how to find such a job, but one of my professors commented to me that the Agricultural Engineering department at Purdue had a program called Breaking New Ground to help farmers with disabilities. I marched straight up to Dr. Field’s Breaking New Ground office and pounded on his door. Miraculously he was in the office and invited me in. I explained my situation, and he hired me on the spot. The agricultural engineer for the program had just moved away, and Breaking New Ground needed a rural assistive technology specialist.
From that day I hit the ground running, applying my farm work experience with my engineering degree and desire to serve people. I travelled the state of Indiana from farm to farm doing Worksite Assistive Technology Assessments for farmers and farm families suffering from injuries or illnesses that limited their ability to work. One of my co-workers commented “Ned, it’s almost scary to think what the Lord is preparing you for by giving you all this experience with people with disabilities.” I did wonder if perhaps I or a family member would someday become disabled and this was my training time!
As of today, instead of using all that training to serve my own disability, I have been convinced by the Lord to use that training to help others. I have had experiences in many agricultural enterprises, but my career has been continually guided back to serving people with disabilities in their employment. In 2009 I had the thought that farmers perform almost every skilled trade at some time during the year. They do mechanic work. They do welding and fabrication. They do animal health care. They operate heavy machinery. They cut and handle logs and brush. They do electrical and plumbing repairs. They maintain buildings and grounds around the farmstead. They handle materials, and the list goes on.
If I know all about technology to help a farmer with a disability, why not share the wealth of information with all the skilled tradesmen with disabling illness or injury? I started calling assistive technology suppliers and asking for permission to list their products and pictures on an informational website designed to show hands-on workers with disabilities that they could keep working. When I called Great Day Manufacturing, the CEO Paul Meeks said “You’re doing all the work of an online retail catalog, why not add a ‘buy it now’ button?” From this, DisabilityWorkTools.com was born.
So today, the mission of DisabilityWorkTools.com is the same. Whether a purchase is made or not, the site is helping people with disabilities be encouraged that they can work. It is a full service free informational website searchable by job type or disability type or tool type. Skilled trademen with disabilities can go to one place and see many ways to accommodate their work. It is designed to help. If someone chooses to buy an item, great. If they decide to use DisabilityWorkTools.com as a reference and teaching tool, great. In all situations, people with disabilities are receiving assistive technology services and being blessed by the work of a loving Lord who urged and urges me to this activity.