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Assistive Technology Helps a Blind Rancher Carry on His Family's Legacy

A white man wearing overalls, a sherpa lined jacket, and a trucker cap stands in front of a weathered barn door. Text says How a Blind Rancher Manages Cattle with WayAround

Jason Barber’s family has operated farmland in Unionville, Tennessee since 1866. More than 20 years ago, he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. For much of that time, Jason has worked with his father, who is sighted, to manage 30 head of beef cattle and 20 calves on the 100-acre farm. But when he recently inherited the farm from his father, Jason was determined to carry on his family’s legacy as an eighth-generation farmer.

“My grandfather used to tell me not to get bothered by the things you can’t help,” Jason told a reporter for The Cooperator, a publication of the Tennessee Farmers Cooperative. “My visual impairment may be out of my control, but that doesn’t mean it has to control my life.”

Jason has experimented with many assistive technologies, thanks to his work with the STAR Center, a disability services & support organization in Jackson, Tennessee. For several years, he has used the OrCam MyEye 2 and the Tru-Test Stick Reader to read the number on the cow’s ear tag. Yet Jason found he needed even more information than just the number written on the label.

“Inventorying cattle has definitely been the biggest struggle for me. For the longest time, my dad was my ‘eyes,’ but now that he’s gone, I’ve had to find new ways of keeping track of my cattle’s productivity levels and whether they are up-to-date on their vaccinations.”

That’s when Jason discovered WayAround. 

“I can organize all the information for a certain cow, such as their date of birth, weight, and vaccination history in the WayTag and then stick it to the back of the cow’s ear tag. All I have to do after that is scan the tag with my phone, and I’ll immediately have access to all that information.”

WayAround continues to work with Jason on ways he can use WayAround to manage his livestock. His goal is to be able to sit in his armchair in the evening and look through all of the information stored on his WayTags. That way, he can plan ahead for any necessary vaccinations or other care. Jason has even started telling sighted farmers about WayAround because he thinks they can benefit from having detailed information attached directly to an animal.

Like many of our users, Jason uses WayAround to add information to things that conventional labeling systems wouldn’t work for. And if you can label a cow with WayAround, you can tag anything!

Jason also plans to introduce WayAround for Public Spaces to his local volunteer fire department, where he helps manage the inventory and maintain equipment.

 

Many thanks to the Tennessee Farmers Cooperative for giving us permission to use photos and quotes from an article that originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of The Cooperator. View the original PDF here. The feature article is on page 42.

One thought on “Assistive Technology Helps a Blind Rancher Carry on His Family’s Legacy

  1. I have end stage glaucoma and lost right eye and my left is blurry more and more every year. I’m an AIR Force veteran and they help me a lot with tools to do things. I agree with his grandpa about not to worry about the things you can’t change.

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