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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Texas State students build wheelchair ramp for therapy program

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Rodriguez

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Rodriguez

Last fall, students volunteered after noticing a need at a local nonprofit which has reaped the benefits since.
In November, students in Texas State’s Service-Learning Excellence Program and the Safe at Home initiative, an organization aimed at improving in-home accessibility to handicap individuals, crafted a wheelchair ramp for SOAR-Horseback Riding for All.
The wheelchair ramp was needed to improve accessibility for riders of all abilities and riding levels. It replaced an older, smaller installation that proved to be a nuisance over time.
Joanna Norris, SOAR president and a certified therapeutic recreational specialist, developed the program with her sister, Joy Norris, vice president of SOAR. Joanna Norris said the volunteer work has made a daily difference to the organization.
“We managed okay with our old ramp, but the new ramp has made a significant difference for our horses’ and riders’ accessibility levels,” Joanna Norris said. “Every single one of our riders has noticed the difference and loves how easy it is to mount their horses and walk straight into the arena. It has made mounting (horses for) all of our clients smoother, faster and safer for everyone.”
Joanna Norris said she and her sister developed the SOAR horseback riding program three years ago to provide individuals of all backgrounds and all levels the opportunity to ride and bond with horses.
The program offers recreational therapies through horseback riding, so making the riding arena accessible to people of all abilities was their top priority. Joy Norris said she recognized the farm’s need for the upgraded ramp.
“We had a ramp in the barn area that worked, but it was often too small for most of our horses and clients,” Joy Norris said. “The ramp was too far away from the arena, and this caused some issues with the horses’ feet because they had to walk over rocky ground with the riders mounted.”
The student volunteers spent two days building the new ramp with the hope of improving the experiences of riders seeking equestrian therapy and for the horses aiding in that therapy. The ramp now serves a wider range of riders, including those with paralysis and other disabilities
Joy Norris said she and her staff saw passion in the students who volunteered.
“The Texas State volunteers were truly amazing,” Joy Norris said. “They all seemed invested and interested in our program. We could really see their passion for helping the community, and all of us at SOAR are overwhelmed by the generosity of all who were involved in building the project.”
The program continues to search for new ways to rebuild and change the farm to improve its accessibility, safety and services and in doing so the team strives to make the Norris farm feel welcoming for the riders, their parents and the volunteers. According to Joy Norris, the program is currently developing a few big ideas they plan to accomplish in the coming years.

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  • Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Rodriguez

  • Students build a new wheelchair ramp for therapy program SOAR-Horseback Riding for all

    Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Rodriguez

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