Each month I write an opinion column for The Falkirk Herald newspaper. I write about all sorts of things from what I’ve been getting up to, my travels, my day-to-day life, thoughts on accessibility and more. For last months column, I wrote about my childhood, growing up with a disability and the lack of inclusive toys compared to the range of inclusive toys on the market nowadays. I really enjoyed writing this one and wanted to share it with you all. I hope you enjoy this post on disabled Barbie dolls and inclusive toys.
The Importance Of Positivity
Sometimes it feels like all we hear is bad news in the media, so it’s nice when there are some positivity and feel-good stories.
There was one article in particular that I came across recently that made me smile. I even shared it with my online followers in the hope it would brighten their day and spread some awareness.
The story was about a little two-year-old girl from Aberdeenshire with a rare lung condition (you can read the article here). Her condition means she has to have a 24/7 supply of oxygen, be fed through a tube and use a wheelchair as she cannot walk distances.
Despite her limitations, the little girl has come on leaps and bounds and that’s partly down to special swimming sessions she attends every week. The swimming sessions are run by Love Rara, a company which enables ill children to swim with mermaids.
Reading the article made me remember when I was a little girl and wishing I could be a mermaid when I grew up. If this company were about twenty years ago it would definitely be something I’d love to do.
The experience is magical for the children as well as their families and allows them to make special memories that they can cherish forever. This is especially important for children with terminal illnesses who have made swimming with mermaids a bucket list item.
Growing Up With A Disability
This got me thinking more about my childhood growing up with a disability. I didn’t really know that many disabled people, only a small handful and that included my older sister, who has the same condition as me. So other than my sister, I personally didn’t know or see anyone that was like me and used a wheelchair.
Even TV and media representation of disabled people was very low to non-existent back then. Nowadays, I’m happy to see more positive representation across media which is great for the disabled community. We’re seeing more disabled TV presenters, actors, comedians, campaigners and Paralympians.
My inner child was even excited to hear that Mattel, the creator of Barbie were releasing a new range of Barbie dolls; one that uses a wheelchair and another with a prosthetic leg. There are also now Barbie’s with different body shapes and skin tones, which is further broadening diversity.
These new additions aim to normalise disability and be more representative of real women and the children that play with Barbie.
They listened to what their customers had to say and one of the most requested items was a doll in a wheelchair. I love that they are working towards inclusion and showing physical disabilities in their Barbie doll range.
Disabled Barbie Dolls Promotes Social Inclusion
I was a massive Barbie fan when I was younger and I still have all my Barbie’s in storage. It was always so exciting to see what Barbie and accessories I’d get for birthdays and Christmas.
I remember being so excited to receive a Barbie house for Christmas one year and couldn’t wait to show my friends. Unfortunately, it got broken when my Godfather (don’t worry I forgive you) fell over it on Boxing Night, completely breaking it to pieces. Thankfully my Dad meticulously glued it all back together and all was well again.
Growing up as a wheelchair user with Muscular Dystrophy and being the biggest Barbie fan, I would have loved to have had a Barbie doll that looked like me and used a wheelchair.
Although they’ve taken their time, I have to admit that I’m really happy to finally see inclusive toys with real women’s bodies being represented. It is challenging the definition of what is considered beautiful and I’m all for that. Even at my age, I want to get one of the Barbie’s who uses a wheelchair and one for my niece too.
Owning My Own Wheelchair Barbie
P.S. – A few months after publishing this post, Mattel very kindly sent me two wheelchair Barbies of my own. I am over the moon with them.
What was your favourite toy growing up? What are your thoughts on inclusive toys?
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