New Barbie Breaks Down Barriers

Kasey Vouros, The Carroll News

Mattel Inc., the American multinational toy manufacturing company, is due to unveil the newest Barbie doll in June 2019. The new dolls will use wheelchairs and come with removable prosthetic legs as part of the Barbie Fashionistas Line.

A few years ago, Mattel evolved its Fashionistas line to include various skin tones, eye colors, hair colors and textures and body types from tall to petite to curvy.

This new release will help to further expand the Fashionistas line, offering children more diverse representations of beauty. In a news release, Mattel says, “As a brand, we can elevate the conversation around physical disabilities by including them into our fashion doll line to further showcase a multi-dimensional view of beauty and fashion.”

A doll with a wheelchair accessory has been one of the most requested items from Barbie fans. The doll, wheelchair accessory and compatible DreamHouse ramp will sell for around $19.99. Other dolls in the “Made To Move” line will also be compatible with the wheelchair accessory along with the upcoming doll that has an articulated body made to easily sit in a wheelchair.

Mattel collaborated with Jordan Reeves, a 13-year-old disability activist, who was born without a left forearm, to create the doll with a prosthetic limb. This new Barbie doll has the ability to help fight and reduce the stigma surrounding people with disabilities.

Mattel also worked with UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital and wheelchair experts to help design the wheelchair accessory, according to CNN. There are many types and models of wheelchairs, but this specific one is designed for an individual who has a permanent physical disability.

These new dolls are a huge hit with disability rights activists. It is monumental and important, notes Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network. “A big icon of society like Barbie now demonstrates or shows that there are different types of people … [who] can be attractive and something kids want to play with,” says Decker..

Decker hopes these new dolls will remove stigmas surrounding people with disabilities and show kids that there is “nothing wrong” with people who have them.

It is no secret that there are people with disabilities in the fashion industry and now the toy industry as well. For example, Aerie for American Eagle has recently introduced its #AerieReal line, including models with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

According to Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility, “More than 1 billion people in the world have a disability.” RespectAbility is an advocacy group for people with disabilities. Mizrahi admires Mattel’s efforts and says, “Barbie joins a number of powerful companies who also understand that marketing, and including, people with disabilities is both the right thing to do and the profitable thing to do.”

By creating this new Barbie doll, Mattel is taking a giant leap forward in creating toys and products that bring attention to inclusivity in children’s everyday lives.