Happy new year and for those of you that celebrate Christmas I hope you had a merry one! For my first post this year I decided to do something fun and whacky. During the Christmas holiday, I was introduced to a whole new world of ‘disability awareness presents’ I knew almost nothing about. I made it my mission to find out everything I could about them. This is going to be a list of ‘disability awareness toys’ which disabled Santa has been handing out this year. Raising awareness of disabilities among children is a great way to tackle ableism and make people, in general, more aware of the vast range of bodies people can have. It’s also important for children with disabilities to be able to grow up seeing and playing with toys that look like them to remind them that they are different but still normal and that there are many more like them out there. I previously stated that sometimes it feels like I’m the only person like me in the world because I’ve hardly ever met anyone like me. I wish I could have grown up playing with some of these disabled toys, perhaps it would have helped me to view myself differently as well as helping me not to feel so alienated.
That’s why the #ToyLikeMe campaign started to encourage toy firms to make more disabled toys for children. The campaign has had some incredible support and results, meaning that there were lots of toys on disabled Santa’s list last Christmas. I think you’d be surprised by the different kinds of awareness toys there are available out there and I was increasingly impressed while I did the research for this list. Would you buy any of these for your children or friends? (All of the research for this list is credited in the citation list below)
This is a bit of a controversial one. In case you don’t know the history: The first time Mattel attempted to release a disabled barbie was in 1997 with the ‘Share-a-Smile Becky’ doll. Becky was one of Barbie’s friends and 6,000 of her dolls were sold within the first two weeks of her release. But not only did Becky play into the stereotype that all disabled people are happy and inspirational, her wheelchair didn’t even fit through the door of Barbie’s dreamhouse, the dreamhouse’s lift and numerous other accessories. The sad thing about how Mattel dealt with this issue is that they thought it was easier to just ban the doll altogether instead of changing anything to make it wheelchair accessible which sends a really bad message – That it’s easier to take the disabled person out of the equation altogether rather than change anything to make life better for them. So Mattel stopped selling the doll and forgot about disabled representation for 20 years until 2017. Now, numerous disabled barbies are available including ones in wheelchairs and ones with prosthetic limbs. It might have taken a while for Mattel to have gotten this together and it has made its mistakes along the way, but as a fairly big fan of the barbie musicals as a child, I would have loved to have had the opportunity to play with one so I’m happy that it’s out there now.
Wheelchair-Accessible Toy Cars
Most children grow up playing with cars. My sisters and I had little wind-up cars which we would pull back and then watch as they whizzed across the floor. Now, your average toy car is available with a wheelchair-accessible ramp and space for a toy with a wheelchair to fit in the back. Numerous toy car manufacturers offer wheelchair-accessible toy cars such as Little Tikes who also used to make toy wheelchairs but I don’t think they make them anymore for some reason. The best example of a wheelchair-accessible toy car I could find was the 2019 Playmobil school bus which featured a removable wheelchair ramp and even a disabled parking sticker on the side.
Disabled Teddy Bears
I received a teddy bear from the hospital after my first operation and it’s one that I’ve always treasured. Disabled teddy bears are everywhere, the example on the right is from Rackety’s but I also saw online that there were wheelchairs available to go with teddies at the famous Build-a-Bear Workshop. I also saw small disabled teddies you can snuggle with in bed as well as cuddly, soft wheelchairs which any type of teddy bear can be strapped into.
Disabled Playmobil and Lego Characters
I personally prefer these to the disabled barbies. What I like about Lego characters is that instead of buying toy houses that are accessible for disabled toys, you can build your own one which is. But I have to say that it seemed as if Playmobil had more incredible wheelchair-accessible accessories available. Lego made its first disabled mini-figure in 2016 after the #ToyLikeMe campaign gained 20,000 signatures for popular toy firms to make disabled characters. Lego did use to have a mini-figure of an old man in a wheelchair and Playmobil had numerous characters in wheelchairs available with their hospital sets, but the #ToyLikeMe movement helped wheelchair characters to appear in school and park sets and for a range of ages. We definitely have the #ToyLikeMe movement to thank for Lego and Playmobil’s great disabled representations.
Wheelchair-Accessible Toy Houses
Whether it’s life-size wheelchair-accessible playhouses or miniature toy ones, disabled Santa has you covered. The same incredible 2019 Playmobil school set which featured the school bus with the wheelchair ramp offered a school with complete lift access as well as disabled toilets. As a child, I would have LOVED to play with this school set. I can just imagine pretending to have the character in the wheelchair’s friends fight over who would get to ride in the lift with them and making the character tell off other students for using the disabled toilet. Above almost every other item on this list, I especially wish that this Playmobil set was in every child’s home. I feel as if it would make a real difference, and probably already has, when it comes to the education of children all around the world of people like me, and that’s what the #ToyLikeMe movement is all about.
Disabled Bath Toys
There aren’t that many of these out there but I still put them on the list to show how there truly is a disabled version of almost every type of toy out there – Whether it’s for the bath, the bed or the garden. So if you want your disabled child to have a little fluffy friend that looks just like them or are worried that your able-bodied child isn’t aware enough of the different forms and shapes bodies can come in then disabled Santa Claus may have exactly what you need next Christmas. 🙂
Announcement: As homework becomes more congested in the latter half of the school year, I may only post once a week on Sunday instead of twice (once on Saturday and once on Sunday). Here’s to another year of my disease being stable with no noticeable progression. Here’s to how incredibly lucky I am to live in a place that provides wheelchairs and other help for life with my disability. Here’s to being surrounded by a family who loves and cares for me. Happy new year!
Image and Research Citations: https://creativemarket.com/studiostoks/4328591-Santa-Claus-is-an-active-wheelchair, https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahkim/2019/02/19/barbie-dolls-with-disabiilities/, https://twitter.com/playmobiluk/status/1095770931409178625, https://www.flickr.com/photos/scottdd2/42956050245/, https://www.tmhnc.com/new-equipment/taylor-dunn-wheelchair-transport-electric-vehicle, https://inspiremagazineuk.wordpress.com/tag/disabled-children/, https://www.college-park.com/truper, https://nl.pinterest.com/pin/447404544233156465/?lp=true, https://www.amazon.co.uk/LEGO-Town-City-Park-Minifigure/dp/B01JOYVL8C, https://nl.pinterest.com/pin/443252788306065074/?lp=true, https://www.playmobil.nl/ingerichte-school/9453.html, https://inspiremagazineuk.wordpress.com/tag/disabled-children/, https://www.playmobil.nl/ingerichte-school/9453.html, https://lilalu-shop.com/en/rubber-ducks/sporty-leisure-ducks/wheelchair-duck-design-by-lilalu