PlaygroundSPRINGFIELD – Maddie Heflin, a student at Wolf Ridge Elementary School in Bunker Hill, had a question, and that question was answered with a new state law.

Her question: Why are so many playgrounds unusable by kids with handicaps?

She asked that question for a while and eventually asked it to State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).

“Accessible equipment is available, but we just don’t see it in our playgrounds. Every child should have the opportunity to use our public parks and playgrounds. This law promotes the acceptance and inclusion of kids with disabilities and helps eliminate any stigma around it,” Manar said.

The new law directs the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to prioritize park grants for accessible playground equipment. Manar sponsored the proposal in the Senate.

Grants from DNR’s outdoor recreation program are already prioritized based on the useful life of facilities, safety needs and other factors. The law adds universally accessible swings, ground-level play features, wheelchair-accessible tables and ramped equipment to that list of priorities.

The new law, House Bill 3457, was signed by the governor Tuesday and takes effect Jan. 1, 2016.

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