"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:13-14
A British toy-making company Makies has started producing dolls that have walking aids, hearing aids and birthmarks, promoting the idea that it's important for children to see their disabilities reflected as normal and beautiful.
"We put a bunch of things on hold and jumped into designing toy hearing aids, toy walking aids, working out how to do facial birthmarks," toy-making company Makies says on its website, adding that it's also working on a toy wheelchair.
The company revealed that it was inspired to create the customized dolls after parents began pushing companies to make toys that are more inclusive of children with disabilities. In an attempt to make their voices heard, the parents started a campaign using the hashtag #ToyLikeMe, arguing that the 150 million children with disabilities worldwide should not be excluded from the "the very industry that exists to create their entertainment."
"The global toy industry is worth ]$20 billion], but there are no wheelchair-using Barbies (Mattel's toe-curlingly named Share a Smile Becky was discontinued several years ago along with American Sign Language Barbie)," writes #ToyLikeMe founder Rebecca Atkinson of why she started the campaign. "Playmobil's answer to disability is a boy with a broken leg and an elderly man being pushed in a wheelchair by a young blonde woman. What does this say to children? That only old people need wheels? That childhood disability amounts to a few weeks with your leg in plaster and then goes away?"
She adds, "When I thought about the level of exclusion that was being carried out by these powerful global brands, the pied pipers of childhood, my rage rolled. I wanted to do something. You see, I was one of those kids. I'd grown up wearing hearing aids and never seen myself represented anywhere. There were no deaf people on TV, in the comics I read or the toys I played with."
In addition to Makies, AmericanGirl, and My Little Pony have joined the campaign, releasing a range of limited edition dolls with disabilities, which come with removable hearing aids, glasses, walking frames, portwine marks, and cleft lips.
Last year, artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm released the "Lammily" dolls, a line of dolls that are realistically proportioned and are designed to resemble the average 19-year-old American gir. There are also a set of stickers available to add marks to the dolls, including acne and stretch marks.
"It can show that you don't have to be perfect," one little girl said in reaction to the dolls, in a video about the product.