Johnson County elections officials are hailing the renovation of a polling precinct to make it handicapped-accessible. Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett says the Cedar Township Hall just outside the town of Solon was slated to be closed because it didn’t comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. But then a Boy Scout with cerebral palsy read about it. The Solon high-schooler named Zach Hebl spearheaded the project as part of his eagle-scout work, inspiring the community to pull together and make the historic building accessible for voting and other uses. A new grant program for remodeling sites could make the change more commonplace in Iowa. Slockett says the secretary of state’s office hopes to make this a model project for other counties and is even providing financial assistance. He says each county can get up to 25-hundred dollars to make polling places accessible — things like compliance in the width of doors, ramps and parking places that let a handicapped person park and unload a wheelchair. Slockett says the counties have gotten “quite innovative” at finding places to hold voting that can comply with handicapped access rules. Farmers’ machine sheds, simple metal buildings, are often heated and have telephones in them. He points out many sit on a simple cement slab with no steps, so they’re handicapped accessible. In Johnson County, Slockett says Hebl conviced local businesses to donate or discount the materials needed to build a new ramp, deck, parking space and walkway for the hall. Then Hebl’s Scout troop and fellow high-school students pitched in to do the work.
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