Like many young children, 1-year-old Delaney Ott-Dahl is mesmerized by Disney princesses, but none of them look like her. The cheerful toddler has Down syndrome, which is why her moms, Keston and Andrea, are petitioning Disney to create a princess that Delaney can truly look up to. As Keston Ott-Dahl writes, "Children with Down syndrome are princes and princesses too!"
It's a message that so far seems to be resonating. The petition has nearly reached its goal of 55,000 signatures, with people from all corners of the globe signing on to support the Ott-Dahls.
"Andrea and I started on Oct. 2 with a goal of 1,000 signatures collected up until Nov. 15. We had that in an hour," Keston Ott-Dahl told Mic. "We looked at each other and said, 'Wouldn't it be something if we were able to get 10,000 signatures?' and we had that in less than a week. The next was 30,000, then 50,000... I am very proud of the humanity and compassion that is emerging. Both Andrea and I are blown away and humbled."
For years, Disney has been criticized for a lack of racial diversity among its animated characters. This petition highlights another demographic similarly in need of representation. Indeed, arguably, only two characters in Disney's catalogue — the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Nemo — come close to showcasing special needs diversity. (And the Hunchback doesn't really count, as his physical disability is treated more like a scary deformity than a medical condition.)
But the Ott-Dahls' overture isn't really about finger-pointing. A self-proclaimed Disney fan, Keston Ott-Dahl told the Orlando Sentinel that Disney has the power to affect widespread cultural change:
"Disney has done such a great job inspiring children, generation after generation, to be good people. They are in a unique position to directly change the way future generations and societies view people with Down syndrome... As Disney portrays people [with Down syndrome], they can teach future generations to be more compassionate and more accepting and unjudgmental of kids who are not like them."
Whether Disney will reply remains to be seen. (And in an intensely dispiriting — if unsurprising —development, the Ott-Dahls' petition has already received its fair share of hateful trolling online.) But Keston Ott-Dahl remains hopeful. "I believe in Disney," she told Mic. "It would mean the world to the millions of kids of all abilities if Disney acknowledged us."