Slowly but surely, Sydney and her buddy Emma, from Palo Alto High School’s Best Buddies program, ascend the steps of the slide mound at Magical Bridge Playground. Holding hands, they sing songs about the weather and school and the slide they’re about to go down together. When they make it to the top of the slide mound, Sydney crouches at entrance to the slide, poised to speed down it as Emma encourages her. In a moment she is flying towards the bottom of the slide, squealing gleefully and waiting for the exhilarating “zap” she says she feels every time she goes down the slides at Magical Bridge.

For Sydney, who is blind, sensation and touch are everything, and Magical Bridge Playground allows Sydney to satisfy these needs in a way that other parks don’t. Spending time up in the trees on the tree deck, the numerous options for speed in the different zones, Magical Bridge constantly supplies opportunities for Sydney to express herself in a way with which she is comfortable. This comfort is perhaps the reason that she and her family visit Magical Bridge nearly twice a week. Though her visits are frequent, Sydney hardly tires of the playground. There always seems to be something new to do here, whether it’s playing with new friends or letting her curiosity lead her through the park to discover new activities.

When it comes to playtime, Emma and Sydney are practically glued together. Because Sydney is blind, she is hugely tactile and loves holds hands with Emma while they roam the park, letting go only when there is no option to hold on. Even then, Emma is never far from Sydney, staying at her side as she ventures across the sway bridge or pushing her on the disk swing. Whatever challenge Sydney wants to take on, she’s able to do it with her buddy. At other parks, where it’s difficult for her playmates to stay near, Sydney is left navigating the playground without the guidance and friendship she needs.

Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto is a place where Sydney is shown friendship by people like Emma, who she knows well, and by people whom she’s only just met.

 

— video and article created by Palo Alto High School, Social Justice Interns, Sam Guernsey and Julie Cornfield.