Toy manufacturer Mattel launched a Barbie doll with Down syndrome on Tuesday further increasing the diversity of its Barbie Fashionistas line, which also includes dolls with hearing aids, prosthetic legs and other disabilities.
“As the most diverse doll line on the market, Barbie plays an important role in a child’s early experiences, and we are dedicated to doing our part to counter social stigma through play,” said Lisa McKnight, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Barbie & Dolls. “Our goal is to enable all children to see themselves in Barbie, while also encouraging children to play with dolls who do not look like themselves.”
In a world were people with disabilities make up 26% of the population but are seen just 2.4% of the time in Hollywood movies, one study found, and in only 1% of commercials, according to Nielsen, this doll flips the script.
“This doll really helps make the world much more accurate for those of us that are interested in truth and reality. If roughly one in four people have some type of disability, that’s a lot of people when you drive down your street, when you walk into your classroom, when you walk into your churches or your synagogues, one in four is a lot,” said Michael Tozzoli, CEO of West Bergen Mental Healthcare.
Doll play helps kids use their imagination to work out problems. It helps them learn how to express their feelings. It’s also an opportunity for children to picture taking care of others, said Tozzoli.
Mattel worked closely with the National Down Syndrome Society to design a Barbie that would connect to the community.
The doll has a new, rounder face with slightly slanted eyes, a shorter framed body and a dress with a pattern that features yellow and blue butterflies, colors associated with Down syndrome awareness. It wears a pink pendant necklace with three upward chevrons representing three copies of the 21st chromosome − the genetic anomaly that causes Down syndrome. The new Barbie also has pink orthotics, like the ones some children with the condition use to support their feet and ankles, according to the company website.
The Fashionista Barbie with Down syndrome is available now on Mattel.com and in stores this summer.
“I think it’s powerful for the community that has Down syndrome and also parents,” said Tozzoli. “Imagine strolling through a store and you see a doll that looks like your son or daughter, I think that really would be quite a powerful moment.”
Gene Myers covers disability and mental health for NorthJersey.com and the USA TODAY Network. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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