Pennsylvania Girl Requests Inclusive American Girl Doll

Pennsylvania Girl Requests Inclusive American Girl Doll

Melissa Shang, 10, of Paoli, Pennsylvania, has petitioned American Girl to create a doll with physical disabilities. Shang has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a form of muscular dystrophy, and uses a wheelchair. She says, “Disabled girls are American girls too,” and that “American Girls are supposed to represent all the girls that make up American history… that includes disabled girls.” Her petition, created on Change.org, has gathered more than 125,000 signatures as of January 13, 2014. Shang shared in her petition that American Girl dolls have helped her “understand how it feels to be someone else” and that she doesn’t want “to be invisible or a side character that the main American Girl has to help.” Although American Girl sells inclusive accessories (hearing aid, guide dog, etc.) that can be added to an existing American Girl doll, there are no AG dolls that have a disability as a part of their “back story.” Shang says her favorites are the Girl of the Year dolls, and it is her hope that a Girl of the Year with a disability is made available in the near future.

In recent years, American Girl has made an effort to be more inclusive and sensitive to their customers’ needs. AG characters come from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and the dolls are available in a wide range of hair, skin, and eye colors. AG now has bald dolls that are geared towards children with alopecia, cancer, or any other illness that causes hair loss. The doll accessory line boasts inclusive products like a hearing aid, a service dog-in-training, and an allergy-free lunch box.

American Girl, a subsidiary of Mattel since 1998, was founded in 1986 by creator Pleasant Rowland. The company’s flagship product is a line of 18-inch dolls that are modeled after periods in American history. These dolls are accompanied by historically accurate accessories and a series of historical fiction books about that doll/character. Each year, American Girl releases a limited-edition Girl of the Year doll, which also includes accessories and literature. AG also carries a line of contemporary dolls known as “My American Girl.” My American Girl dolls come in a variety of skin, hair, and eye color combinations, and it is common for girls to purchase a My American Girl doll that resembles them. Originally, AG products were only available by mail-order, but are now available online and at 16 American Girl retail locations across the United States. The first American Girl Place (retail store) was opened in Chicago in 1999. These AG retail stores include cafes, portrait studios, shops, and – until 2008 – a theater. American Girl has overseen number of products through the years, including American Girl magazine; the aforementioned dolls and their accessories; Bitty Baby/Bitty Twins dolls and accessories; clothing and accessories for girls; the Girls of Many Lands collection of dolls and books; AG Minis (a line of lightboxes that could be decorated with miniature furniture and accessories; similar to a dollhouse); and a large selection of character and “advice and activities” books.

This post was written by a guest contributor for Global Lift Corp., specializing in commercial-grade pool lifts and aquatic access equipment.