Breaking barriers with Barbie

For six decades Barbie has been idolised by children around the world. Now, the iconic doll is getting an inclusive upgrade.

Barbie is a far cry from the disproportionate blonde she once was. In June Barbie will debut a doll with a prosthetic leg and another in a wheelchair to celebrate Barbie’s sixtieth year.

Credit: @Barbie on Twitter

Mattel collaborated with 13-year-old Jordan Reeves to create the new dolls.

Jordan was born without a left forearm and has worked to change attitudes around physical differences from a young age.

When Barbie first contacted Jordan she was overjoyed, she says: “My dreams of having a doll with a limb difference were coming true.

“I explained what it is like to live with a limb difference and why people do and don’t use prosthetics.”

Represent

The new dolls are part of parent company Mattel’s mission to make their toys more representative of the children playing with them. Barbie joins Lego and Disney Plush on a list of toys becoming disability inclusive.

“It’s good to see disabilities included in mainstream toys brands,” adds Jordan. “It shows kids that they are a part of the world and that they matter.”

This isn’t Mattel’s first venture into disability representation: in 1997 Becky was introduced.

Labelled a friend of Barbie, wheelchair user Becky was branded to appear different to her counterpart. Called a role model at the time, Becky was discontinued after reports that her wheelchair didn’t fit through the doors of some Barbie dollhouses.

Over 20 years later Barbie herself is a wheelchair user, has a prosthetic and can still access her DreamHouse.

Community

The effort to ensure the dolls reflect the realities of living with a disability has paid off. The new dolls have received praise from the disabled community and people around the world.

“It’s really important for typical kids to see disabilities in mainstream toys,” explains Jordan. “I hope toys that show disabilities will mean kids won’t think twice when they see someone different on the playground or coming down the street.”

Wheelchair experts from UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital helped design Barbie’s wheelchair, one of the most requested accessories from fans. The wheelchair Barbie will use is designed for a permanent physical disability.

A DreamHouse compatible ramp will be included and Barbie’s prosthetic limb can be removed for a more realistic play experience.

Education

Disabled people young and old will be empowered by the two new Barbies. The dolls will show disabled children that it is ok to be different while teaching all children that having a disability is not something to be fixed.

“A wheelchair and a prosthetic leg are just the beginning,” adds Jordan. “I hope we start seeing more toys that show even more disabilities.”

The introduction of the two new dolls is a step towards ending the stigma around disability, but there is more to be done. We can’t wait to see what Barbie does next.

Will you be purchasing the new Barbies this June? Let us know on Twitter and Instagram.