THE BLOG
05/02/2016 09:59 GMT | Updated 03/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Everything Is Awesome in Lego Land... Now it's Barbie's Turn to Recognise Disabled Young People

When I was a child, I hated being given dolls for my birthday or Christmas. Most of them were glamorous, blonde and pretty and that certainly wasn't me! Like many other young girls, I would enthusiastically mutilate my Barbie dolls.

Fifty-seven years after Barbie was born, Mattel, the company that created her, has finally cottoned on to the fact that many young girls share my sentiments.

It has launched a new range of Barbies that come in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of skin tones, hair styles and eye make up. Mattel says that it wants to offer girls dolls which are "better reflective of the world we see today".

Twitter users are now calling for a Ken doll who embraces a more realistic version of manhood, a "dad bod Ken".

Disabled children want to see toys like them

Unfortunately, a young Rosemary today would feel no less inclined to rip her Barbie's head off than she did several decades ago. Because Mattel still hasn't released a Barbie with any kind of physical impairment.

Just taking the UK as an example, 1 in 14 children is disabled. Yet they rarely see their lives reflected in toys, and characters in books and films.

Many parents tell Scope that it is important for their children to have toys which they can identify with, because it builds their confidence, self-esteem and the feeling of being included in society.

It also helps young people to explain their differences to their peers. As a young disabled girl, being able to play with a doll that was more like me, would have helped me to accept my own wheelchair better and eased communicating about it with my friends.

Having delivered numerous workshops on disability equality over the years to children and young people, I find that children are so very accepting of difference.

Once they understand why a person is a different colour to them, speaks a different language or uses a wheelchair to help them get around, then they just get on with that person as they would anyone else. Toys are an ideal way to get these conversations started.

We need companies to follow Lego's lead

Some toy manufacturers are listening. I'm thrilled that Lego confirmed last week that it will be releasing its first mini-figure in a wheelchair later this year.

This follows a great campaign by Rebecca Atkinson, who launched the #ToyLikeMe group, which has been calling on toy manufacturers to positively represent disability in their products and help generations of kids grow up with a better attitude to human difference.

So everything is awesome in Lego Land

But too many toy manufacturers are still missing a trick by not making toys with impairments widely available. After all the spending power of disabled consumers is worth over £200bn.

I'm really looking forward to the day when Mattel produces a wheelchair-using Barbie or a Barbie doll that uses a guide dog to help them get around.

So come on Mattel, what about Barbie with a really cool wheelchair? Just don't name her 'Wheelchair Barbie'.