Madison consistently ranks #1 for playgrounds per 10,000 residents, yet there has been a deficit within the Madison Parks system in providing fully accessible playgrounds.
Currently there are 176 playgrounds within Madison’s 274 parks, and only one is considered fully accessible. This playground, located within the Goodman Pool facility, is open four months of the year and only during the pool’s open hours
For many children with disabilities, our playground facilities do not provide equitable access to the benefits of play, exploration, and vital interaction with children of all abilities.
Under ADA guidelines, playgrounds are built with paved pathways and transfer platforms for users accessing the playground equipment from a wheelchair. The transfer platform provides chair-height transfer to the play structure, but then requires a user with a physical disability to crawl the remaining distance up to the slides or other amenities on the structure, only to repeat the process once at the bottom. Loose rubber or wood mulch safety surfacing on the playground is also ADA compliant – but is difficult to travel across for visitors using wheelchairs and other mobility assistance devices. In other words, a child with a disability can get to the playground, but once there, may not be able to enjoy it in nearly the same way as a more able-bodied peer.
To address this need, the Madison Parks Division has established a goal of developing five all-inclusive playgrounds in Community-Level Parks. In August 2017, the Parks Division constructed an all-inclusive playground in Brittingham Park near the Triangle Neighborhood.
Parks engaged disability advocates, families and caregivers within the disabled community, and park neighbors to help in the planning process. As a first of its kind in Madison, the Brittingham Park Accessible Playground provided valuable “lessons learned” and user feedback to guide future inclusive playground projects.
One lesson learned already from the Brittingham project is that the cost of inclusive playgrounds is three to four times the cost of a traditional playground, approximately $300,000. The increased cost is driven by the expensive poured-in-place continuous rubber surface; the ramped access to the play structures; the higher cost of the manufactured components; and the increased area of the playground.
The Parks Division’s goal is to develop one all-inclusive playground per year for five years, including the Brittingham project. To reach its goal of developing four more all-inclusive playgrounds, the Parks Division will need to rely on fundraising undertaken by the Madison Parks Foundation.