Madison opens its first playground accessible to children with disabilities

October 31, 2017

Children with physical and developmental disabilities now have an accessible city playground.

The new Brittingham Park playground on Madison’s South Side includes traditional park features such as monkey bars while providing intellectually stimulating puzzles, an accessible merry-go-round and a smooth rubber surface around the play equipment. It is the first of five such playgrounds the city plans to create.

“Often we express equity as an idea,” Norman Davis, director of the city’s Department of Civil Rights, said at a news conference Thursday. “But often we struggle to really conceptualize what equity looks like,” Davis said, adding, “before us today we have an example of what equity looks like.”

The playground’s merry-go-round and swings have seats with full backs, while the main play structure has ramps leading up to some of the equipment, including slides, climbing pieces and platforms.

Features of the park are also geared toward children on the autism spectrum.

Click to watch Sara Klaas, MSW, talk about the importance of play time for young children with SCI.

The play structure is color-coordinated. Purple parts are for climbing, orange parts are standing platforms and green is for safety rails. A bubble dome creates a quiet space for youngsters to get away from the noise of the playground, said Jason Glozier, the city’s disability rights and services program coordinator.

The playground provides “full barrier-free accessibility” for children of all abilities to use it, said Madison Parks Superintendent Eric Knepp.

Glozier said panels along the playground are meant to benefit children’s motor and sensory skills. One panel includes the alphabet in braille, while another demonstrates letters in American Sign Language.

The $315,000 project is surrounded by the city’s first “pour and place” rubber surface, Knepp said. Instead of traditional wood mulch or rubber chips, which meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, molten rubber was poured into an area bounded by a concrete barrier.

The result is a smooth, spongy surface that will be more accessible for wheelchairs and people with limited mobility, including grandparents, Knepp said.

A second accessible playground is slated for Elver Park next year, and a third at Reindahl Park in 2019, he said. Two more will eventually follow but their locations need to be determined, Knepp said.

Copyright: Wisconsin State Journal, 2017 

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