New Law Puts Priority On Accessible Playgrounds

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SPRINGFIELD – A new law that goes into effect January 1 will place priority on grants to purchase accessible playground equipment.

The idea for the law began, according to State Senator Andy Manar (D – Bunker Hill), with fifth-grader Maddie Heflin from Wolf Ridge Elementary School asking a question. Senator Manar says Heflin asked him why there wasn’t playground equipment that kids with disabilities could use.

“Accessible playground equipment exists, but she wanted to know why it isn’t in our parks and playgrounds,” Manar explains.

Manar says this question caused him to sponsor House Bill 3457. The bill directs the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to prioritize park grants to purchase accessible playground equipment. Manar says providing playground equipment to students with disabilities will promote “acceptance and inclusion.”

Grants from the Department’s outdoor recreation program are already prioritized based on the useful life of facilities, safety needs and other factors. The proposal would add on to that list of priorities with accessible swings, ground-level play features, wheelchair-accessible and ramped equipment.

“Maddie’s question and her concern for others is what led to the creation of this law. Thanks to her help every student will have a chance to participate, and it will teach children at a young age to ignore any stigma around disability,” Manar adds.

The proposal was approved by lawmakers in spring 2015 and was signed by Governor Rauner. It will go into effect January 1, 2016.

A full list of laws going into effect on January 1 can be found here.

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