Kelly, wearing a red shirt, and Jeff, wearing a mint green shirt, kneel next to young adaptive surfer Hunter seated in his wheelchair on the Beach Trax.

30th Anniversary of the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is celebrating its 30 year anniversary in 2020! In 1990, this iconic law was signed in order to outline and protect rights and mandate greater accessibility for persons with disabilities in the United States. We have come a long way in terms of accessibility and inclusion in the past 30 years, but there is still much work to be done. To celebrate the 30 year anniversary and the important topic of inclusion for people with disabilities, I decided to write a blog with a fun twist. This specific article is going to jump into the world of inclusion in the toy industry.

Do you remember playing with toys like Barbie, American Girl Dolls, and stuffed animals? You may not remember seeing any of these toys featuring people with disabilities. Fast forward to 2020, and this is finally changing. Toy makers like Mattel and Hot Wheelz are recognizing that people with disabilities represent the largest minority in the world. Making a commitment to inclusion and showing the next generation of children that it’s normal to be ‘different’ is sure to make a positive impact. Read more to see a list of some toys that celebrate inclusion.

Mattel: Barbie and Inclusion

Firstly, I wanted to share a few toys in the Barbie universe since that was one of my favorites growing up. Barbie allows children to play pretend and use their imagination. Often, children play out what they want their life to be like, so having a doll they can relate to is powerful. For children with physical disabilities, a Barbie with a prosthetic limb or a wheelchair would be incredibly impactful. In 2020, there’s both!

An African American Barbie wearing jeans and a striped shirt sits in her blue wheelchair next to a pink ramp.As an occupational therapist, I recognize that inclusion also means looking at how a person with a disability interacts with their environment. This means that Barbie must have wheelchair accessible features in her doll house. Thanks to the foresight of Mattel consulting with an ADA expert, new doll houses will in fact be wheelchair accessible! The elevator will fit Barbie in her chair, plus the house walkways will be widened. Lastly, when you buy the Barbie with her chair, it comes with a wheelchair ramp!


Toys with Limb Loss & Prosthetics

A brown teddy bear wearing a soccer outfit. His left paw is missing to show limb loss.In addition to Mattel, other companies are creating more inclusive toy lines. One such toy is the Vermont Teddy Bear with limb loss or limb difference. You can go on their website and custom order your special teddy bear. American Girl has also created their very first doll with a physical disability in 2020. Her name is Joss Kendrick, a surfer and competitive cheerleader with a hearing impairment. In addition to this inclusive step, American Girl has been selling accessories including a wheelchair, crutches, and a diabetes care kit.

Continuing on the American Girl topic, if you already have a doll that you wish could match your child’s prosthetic arm or leg, you’re in luck! While American Girl does not sell dolls with this feature, there is an exclusive prosthetics company that will modify it for you. A Step Ahead Prosthetics has headquarters in New York, Boston, and Israel. They are dedicated to boosting the self-esteem and feelings of inclusion for children with limb loss and will modify the doll free-of-charge. All you have to do is fill out their request form and mail in your American Doll. Your child will surely cherish their custom toy and boost of confidence.

Three American Girl Dolls featuring a combination of prosthetic arms and legs.

More Inclusive Toys to Love

Check out this list of a few more toy options that represent people with disabilities. Pictures are featured below in order.

Hot Wheelz Wheelchair: Inspired by Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham, extreme wheelchair MX (WCMX) athlete that completes gravity-defying stunts such as front flips and double back flips. He also travels with the legendary stunt group, Nitro Circus.

Special Dolls: Founded in 2017 by young entrepreneur Sydney Satalino, Special Dolls aims to create inclusive dolls for children with disabilities. Currently, they have a doll named Elliana that has a prosthetic arm.

Legos: 2016 Fun in the Park Lego set includes a wheelchair that you can have any Lego person use. It is the most realistic version of a wheelchair Lego has released.

As we reflect on the last 30 years of accomplishments in accessibility and inclusion, I challenge you to think about what you can do to contribute. It can be a small step such as kindly educating a friend or business owner about inclusion. It can also be volunteering at your child’s school to create a Day of Awareness about accessibility and inclusion (check out what McMillin Elementary School in Chula Vista does). Perhaps you’ll even work in the toy industry someday!