New Inclusive Range of Barbies Released by Mattel

February 2019

A new range of the hugely popular Barbie dolls has just been released with exciting new additions including a doll who is in a wheelchair and another with a prosthetic leg.

US-based Mattel announced the new additions to its Fashionista line together with Barbies with different skin tones, body shapes and braided hairstyles. Over the past few years, Barbie’s creators have been adding to their world-renowned range to make the toys more inclusive and representative of different women but these new additions are the first dolls to portray visible disabilities. The toy manufacturing giant hopes this new range will help to normalise disability.

The first Barbie was originally launched in 1959 and in that time the range has developed to become more inclusive. In a press release, Mattel said; “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. Over the years the line has evolved to be more reflective of the world girls see around them. We’re excited to expand our offerings as the most diverse and inclusive doll line in the world.”

Paralympian and wheelchair racing world champion, Hannah Cockcroft MBE, recently tweeted a photo of her as a child with the ‘Share a Smile Becky’ doll which was released in the US in 1997 as Barbie’s new wheelchair-using best friend. Hannah’s mum managed to source this doll and Hannah said it made her wheelchair acceptable to her for the first time.

Although the doll was very popular and sold out within the first two weeks of release, the doll was pulled from the shelves as consumers soon realised that Becky and her wheelchair didn’t fit inside Barbie’s dream house. However, with this recent re-release the doll isn’t a spin-off, she is part of the Barbie line.

Hannah welcomes the new doll and in an article on the Metro said; “[The doll] can be active, it can be stylish, and it can be independent; it doesn’t have to be big, heavy wheelchairs or a lifetime of being pushed around. Her redesign has her showing off a blue and chrome, self-propelled, low backed, sporty wheelchair, making her fashionable and desirable, instead of resembling something from the dark ages.”

It's so encouraging to see this new range of dolls from Barbie and Mattel. We hope these dolls will help make children who use wheelchairs feel included as they see dolls with the same wheelchairs and prosthetics they have. We also hope that for children who don’t use wheelchairs, these dolls will help to educate and show them that some children do. Either way, it’s great to see disabled people more fairly and realistically represented in this way. Long may it continue!

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