Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto is honored to be featured at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Access+Ability exhibition from December 15, 2017 through September 3, 2018.

Over 57 million Americans today are living with either a visible or invisible disability and this world-renowned exhibition celebrates a decade of design innovation that has created positive change. Fueled by advances in research and technology, designers are creating unprecedented access in homes, schools, workplaces, and the world at large. Access+Ability exhibition features over 70 exciting designs developed in the last decade. From low-tech products that assist with daily routines to the newest technologies, the exhibition explores how users and designers are expanding and adapting accessible products and solutions in ways previously unimaginable.

The exhibition highlights the design principles and profound benefits of Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto, and how it truly addresses the diverse needs of an entire community. Redefining play has put Magical Bridge in the global spotlight as the nation’s most innovative inclusive playground. Universally and mindfully designed to delight everyone, especially children and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities, autism, visual and hearing impairments, medical fragility, sensory challenges, and even the elderly, Magical Bridge welcomes over 25,000 visitors every month to their Palo Alto playground. Regardless of ability or disability, every”body” has fun and feels included at the playground.

It All Started with a Personal Need. Out of a personal necessity, Magical Bridge founder Olenka Villarreal is driving innovative thinking and leadership to inspire *universal design everywhere. Living in Silicon Valley, she was unable to find any playgrounds where both her disabled and non-disabled daughters could play together and have fun. While there were plenty of “ADA-complaint” parks, she dreamed of a place so magical, it would bridge the gap between those with and without disabilities in a seamless way. Raising over $4 million and opening the first Magical Bridge in Palo Alto, the playground attracts world-wide attention, proving that mindful design delights all. Two years later, key members of the original team and Silicon Valley veterans Jill Asher and Kris Loew, joined Villarreal and formed Magical Bridge Foundation as a non-profit. Our mission is to expand Magical Bridge Playground designs throughout the nation, and serve as a model that inspires inclusivity, kindness and friendships.

“Magical Bridge Playground proves it’s not only possible, but truly magical when designing and building for everyone, regardless of ability or disability,”  says Villarreal.  “We dream of the day where all design is inclusive design, making this the kind of world we ALL long to be part of.”

When Designing for Disabilities, Everyone Benefits. The design of Magical Bridge Playground is a culmination of over a decade of planning, research, design and careful consideration, garnered from play experts, landscape architects, the medical community, playground specialists, education professionals, and families living with special needs.

Magical Bridge’s unique play zone layout addresses the various developmental milestones children need to experience, but are often unable,  in today’s typical parks. Each zone features various play elements that ensure every visitor has an opportunity to enjoy the area. Physical movements like spinning have long been known to benefit children’s brain development and improve their ability to pay attention by stimulating their inner ear, or vestibular system. However, those unable to sit independently on a swing, or those unable to get out of a wheelchair to access a piece of equipment miss the many profound benefits of this input. At Magical Bridge’s Spinning Zone, guests roll their wheelchairs onto a ground carousel, lay on either their stomachs or backs and spin on a fantastic dish or sit inside a net spinner that accommodates all.

The Benefits of Play Extends Well Into the Senior Years. On any given day, seniors with Alzheimer’s are swinging high on harness swings, teens with autism delight in creating music on a custom 24-string laser harp, and parents in wheelchairs chase kids through a whimsical 2 story fully inclusive tree house. Kindness Ambassadors roam around the playground greeting visitors and modeling kindness – this is the magic of a Magical Bridge community!



About Magical Bridge Foundation

Magical Bridge Foundation is a 501(c) non-profit organization based in the heart of Silicon Valley, advocating for and bringing to life innovative and truly inclusive community and school playgrounds. Magical Bridge playgrounds delight and welcome everyone, regardless of ability, disability, size or age. After the opening of Palo Alto’s successful model in 2015, Magical Bridge playgrounds are currently underway in northern California communities of Redwood City, Morgan Hill, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, San Jose and the Palo Alto Unified School District. Locations outside the Bay Area for parks and school playgrounds will be announced in 2018. Kindly visit Magical Bridge online at, and on Facebook and Twitter.  



Founded in 1897, Cooper Hewitt is the only museum in the United States devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. Housed in the renovated and restored Carnegie Mansion, Cooper Hewitt showcases one of the most diverse and comprehensive collections of design works in existence. The museum’s restoration, modernization and expansion has won numerous awards and honors, including a Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award from the New York Landmarks Conservancy, a Gold Pencil Award for Best in Responsive Environments and LEED Silver certification. Cooper Hewitt offers a full range of interactive capabilities and immersive creative experiences, including the Cooper Hewitt Pen that allows visitors to “collect” and “save” objects from around the galleries, the opportunity to explore the collection digitally on ultra-high-definition touch-screen tables, and draw and project their own wallpaper designs in the Immersion Room.