10 Year Old Girl Petitions For A Disabled American Girl Doll

melissa-shang

What do you do if you are a young disabled girl and can’t find any toys to play with who look like you? Petition a major toy manufacturer to make one of course! That’s what 10 year old Melissa Shang from Pennsylvania did anyway.

Melissa suffers with form of muscular dystrophy that causes muscle weakness and numbness. She uses a wheelchair or a walker to get around.

She has been a fan of American Girl dolls since she was 7, and especially loves their ‘Girl of the Year’ editions. Melissa decided there was something wrong with the fact that none of the dolls were disabled, and wanted to change that. These are the dolls which the website states “give voice to a diverse range of personalities and backgrounds” but they are yet to showcase a doll representative of disabled children.

Together with the help of her 17 year old sister Ying Ying, the determined fifth-grader started a petition on Change.org asking the brand to release a disabled doll as its 2015 Girl of the Year.

“For once, I don’t want to be invisible or a side character that the main American Girl has to help: I want other girls to know what it’s like to be me, through a disabled American Girl’s story,” Melissa wrote on her petition.

“Disabled girls might be different from normal kids on the outside. They might sit in a wheelchair like I do, or have some other difficulty that other kids don’t have. However, we are the same as other girls on the inside, with the same thoughts and feelings. American Girls are supposed to represent all the girls that make up American history, past and present. That includes disabled girls.”

They are addressing the petition to Jean McKenzie, President of American Girl and Executive Vice President of Mattel Inc. The company does sell a wheelchair, crutches and related “get-well” accessories, but they don’t come with a story and “assume that the doll is injured, that her disability is not a permanent thing. That’s still not quite enough,” YingYing said. I want other kids to understand what it’s like to be a disabled girl,” Melissa said. “Muscular dystrophy prevents activities for me that other people take for granted, like running and ice-skating.”

Ying-Ying-Melissa-Shang
The idea for the petition came about after American Girl released their ‘Girl of the Year’ doll for 2014 who was a blonde ballerina named Isabelle.”My sister was like, ‘Wow, another blond girl who’s a dancer,'” YingYing said in an interview with Philly.com. “So we started talking about who she wanted to see in an American Girl. It’s not that we have anything against blond dancers. But it’s a narrative that’s been told already. We wanted to bring a new one out.”
“I think this resounds with people because people with disabilities are more prevalent than depicted in mainstream media,” said YingYing, a Harvard University freshman. “People live with disabilities every day, visible and invisible, and they don’t feel represented. American Girl has been so accepting and diverse so far. It’s just a shame that they’re missing this.”So far the petition has approx 60,000 signatures and they aren’t done yet!They were inspired to start their petition after the story of 13 year old New Jersey teen Mckenna Pope who petitioned the company that makes Easy Bake ovens to make a version for boys also, and not just assume girls are the only ones who like baking.”Disabled girls are American girls too,” Melissa Shang says in the video below. “We face challenges and overcome them every day.”

What an awesome young girl Melissa is, not just because she has the courage and determination to try and petition a huge company, but because she has the perspective and maturity to see how important it is that toys give young girls a realistic perception of the world right from the start, so that diversity is something they are accustomed to from an early age.

10 Comments

  1. What a brave little girl. I hope they take on her challenge!

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