Growing up I played with dolls just like my sister and cousins. I vividly remember one doll I loved that I named Maxine. It was white and had blonde hair that I absolutely loved playing with. I never once had any issues why this doll was white and had blonde hair, it never once occurred to me that this doll looked nothing like me. It was just a doll that I loved, nothing more. Fast forward some 20 years later and my view has completely changed.
For decades the toy industry has always had toys that look nothing like children of colour. Barbie and Ken have always been white children of colour were not represented. I am pretty sure many young girls of colour have at some point bombarded their parents with thousands of questions as to why their dolls do not look like them. It is so good to see that there are now companies making dolls that look like young girls of colour. Some of these dolls come with Afro hairstyles wearing African print clothes which is a representation of the girls and perhaps of their mothers, sisters and aunties too.
Whilst this makes me smile and happy that there are companies making dolls specifically for children of colour, I have to express my disappointment that there remains a group of children who are left out and I’m sure you’ve already guessed who…that’s right children with disabilities.
Like I’ve already said before growing up playing with white able bodied dolls with blonde hair did not bother me at all however now that I am older my perspective on this has completely changed. White able bodied dolls with blonde hair now bother me a lot. In the year 2016 where we are championing diversity in every area of life, it is imperative that children with disabilities be represented in the toy industry as well.
Children with disabilities stand out like a sore thumb everywhere they go be it at daycare, kindergarten, junior school. They see other children playing with dolls that look like them but they have no dolls that look like them. Imagine what that does to a young girl with a disability on a wheelchair or one who uses crutches?
Now enter the amazing game changers at #ToyLikeMe.
“#ToyLikeMe is a campaign “celebrating disability in toys & calling on the toy industry to positively represent 150 million disabled kids worldwide and help change perceptions!” “#ToyLikeMe® was established in April 2015 after UK journalist Rebecca Atkinson noticed the lack of disability representation in toys. Rebecca had spent nearly 20 years working in TV production and print journalism (including Children’s BBC) and had always been interested in the way these industries represent disabled people, but this was the first time she had noticed the lack of representation in the toy industry. She called on some fellow mothers, and with their help, launched #ToyLikeMe on Facebook and Twitter to call on the global toy industry to start representing the 150 million disabled children worldwide.”
The team at #ToyLikeMe beautifully summed up the need for representation in the quote below
For disabled children growing up being the only one in your class or school to use a wheelchair or a hearing aids and never seeing children like you in books, TV, films and games can lead to a sense of isolation and low self esteem. To see yourself reflected by huge toy brands like Playmobil and Lego is about more than just a toy. It’s about these brands saying that you are worth it, that everyone should be included and celebrated, not just able bodied children. But #ToyLikeMe doesn’t advocate that toy companies should make disabled toys for disabled children per se. What we believe is that ALL children will benefit from incidental disability being positively included in toys. If we create a more inclusive toy box, then perhaps we can educate by stealth and help change attitudes in the real world too.-#ToyLikeMe.
Reading about #ToyLikeMe truly made me happy and they represent everything I am for which is inclusion for children with disabilities. Just imagine what would happen if all toy manufacturers partnered with #ToyLikeMe and made dolls and toys with disabilities, I reckon that would change the world’s view of disability. From a young age, children will learn to interact with disability. Children without disabilities would ask their parents why their dolls or toys have disabilities thus starting a very important conversation on inclusion, acceptance, diversity and the need to stop discrimination.
I am so looking forward to seeing dolls and toys with disabilities go up for sale.
The video below is the reason why #ToyLikeMe exists. If this doesn’t make you cry then well….