Local mom says school playground not wheelchair friendly

For a lot of children, recess is the best part of their day. It’s more than just a break from school work. The National Association for Sports and Physical Education says recess teaches kids how to communicate, solve problems and manage stress.

Second grader Danté Hill sits alone at recess, watching the other kids play. His mom, Cocoa Hill, says it’s unacceptable that her son is missing out because he’s in a wheelchair and can’t use the playground equipment at McNabb Elementary School in Paducah.

"I don’t really know if he’s making friends, because I know most of the time he’s with a teacher in his chair," says Hill.

Under both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, publicly-funded schools are required to give children like Danté equal access to every part of the educational environment, including school playgrounds.

Troy Brock with Paducah Public Schools says they’re in compliance with the law, but they are working on making it more accessible.

"As we’ve prioritized over the years, get taken care of our facility needs, that this is one of those things that we finally got to the point where we can say we have to address this. We need to address this. It’s the right thing to do," says Brock.

The district started building McNabb’s new playground in 2014. It’s expected to be finished in about two years and costs around $200,000. The drawing of the new equipment shows all kinds of different accessible activities.

"The main thing is is that we get kids interacting with each other," says Brock.

Brock says the district does have a brand new, fully accessible and inclusive playground, but it’s not at McNabb Elementary. It’s at Paducah Head Start Preschool. He says they were able to pay for that through federal funds, which can’t be used at the elementary school because it is funded by the state.

Hill says all she wants is for her son to feel accepted at school.

"I’ve cried so much that, I don’t even think that I can cry anymore," says Hill. "We just want to feel equal."

Hill says if something isn’t done soon, she’s packing up and moving her family to a city where her son can thrive.

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