Doug Barker, a quadriplegic farmer who is paralyzed from the neck down, was so determined to live a normal, productive life that he invented a tractor that he can operate while seated in his wheelchair. Not only does the tractor let Barker enjoy farming once again, it has given him back his spark along with inspiring others.
Seventeen years ago Barker broke his neck in six different places while playing hockey. When he first got injured, his doctor basically told him he would never use his legs or arms again. Two years ago Barker was watching television and saw a tractor that had modifications to make it accessible for people with disabilities, sparking his imagination. There are other tractors designed for people who are disabled, however Barker believes his to be the first one that actually allows a person in a wheelchair to operate it while still in their wheelchair.
“You feel like less of a man because you can’t help out,” said Dough. “I said ‘I have to figure out a way to help out’. After the injury, it was a complete loss of independence – and it’s all about clawing back what you can.”
Frustrated with watching from the sidelines, Doug began to work on a plan to find independence.
“It’s never been done before,” said Barker.
The accessible tractor took about two years of design work and help from the community. The tractor was soon named, “Independence,” a nickname found quit suitable.
Barker’s handicap accessible tractor has a wheelchair lift as well as easy to use gears and steering for the little bit of movement he has in his wrists and arms.
“We adapted joysticks with tripods that allow me to pull, push and have sideways movement,” said Doug.
“This has been a dream of his, and this has given him life,” said Neil Enns, president of Manitoba Farmers with Disabilities.
Barker has shown no matter what your situation, nothing can hold you or anyone else back. He is inspirational for those who fight to prove they are just as capable as the rest of us.
Barker intends on eventually setting up a website so he can help other farmers who have disabilities like him.