Olenka Villarreal is changing the way people think about playgrounds, an effort that began with a simple question: Shouldn’t her daughter Ava, who has developmental disabilities, be able to use swings at the park just like anyone else?
At that time, the answer was that she couldn’t. There were no swings at schools or parks in her community that could support Ava safely since she needed a swing with a harness — and swinging was one of the therapeutic treatments specialists had suggested.
Villarreal thought there ought to be a solution, for her daughter and for others with cognitive and physical limitations. In 2015, after 7 years of planning, designing and fundraising, Villarreal and her team opened Magical Bridge in Palo Alto, believed to be the first fully inclusive playground in the nation. Its motto is, “Where everyone can play.”