Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Carla Wilhite


Agricultural Workers' Diseases -- prevention & control; Agriculture -- instrumentation; Equipment Design; Human Engineering; Off-Road Motor Vehicles; Spinal Cord Injuries -- prevention & control


Purpose: Research is limited in addressing the many factors and variables associated with enabling farmers/ranchers with disabilities and health impairments to sit within and operate dynamic agricultural equipment safely, comfortably, and without integument and musculoskeletal injury. As an initial foray into investigating this problem, an independent study project by graduate students in an occupational therapy program compared the seated pressure distribution of two people with paraplegia. Six testing conditions were completed while participants were seated upon two different tractor seats under static conditions.

Methodology: Using a quantitative cross-over design, two adult subjects with paraplegia meeting the inclusion criteria were recruited using a convenience sampling method to participate in this study. The subjects reported having a complete injury of a motor and sensory function below the level of the lesion T5 and T8. Utilizing a clinical protocol for pressure mapping from XSensor®, each participant completed six trials on two different tractor seats: without a cushion, with a Low Profile® ROHO ® air bladder cushion, and with a Mid Profile® ROHO® airbladder cushion. Analysis of the data was conducted through selected clinical methods.

Results: Of the six testing conditions in this particular study, incorporating a Mid Profile® ROHO® cushion is indicated for use on both tractor seats by both subjects in the study to achieve lower overall average pressures, distribute body weight over a greater surface area, increase immersion and flotation on the seating surface, and lower pressures under bony prominences such as the ischial tuberosities.

Conclusion: Due to limited participants in this exploratory study, statistical conclusions cannot be made and generalization of the results to a larger population cannot be drawn at this time. The findings do support the need for future tractor seating studies with people with different disabilities and health impairments within static and dynamic systems. For purposes of clinical decision-making, the independent study provides important information for farm operators with disabilities and health impairments and the professionals providing services to them to better understand the many factors and variables associated with seating in agricultural machinery. Pressure mapping is clearly one clinical tool to be used when considering the seating needs of people with disabilities in agricultural equipment.