Inclusive doll company Lammily wants to bring back wheelchairs for dolls

Inclusive doll company Lammily wants to bring back wheelchairs for dolls
Source: Lammily
Source: Lammily

Back in 1997, Mattel introduced the world to Share a Smile Becky, the first Barbie in a wheelchair. 

Becky sat in a bright pink wheelchair wearing matching capris. Her knees bent. The original doll came with an aqua vest, miniskirt, shoes and headband that all matched.  

Share a Smile Becky
Source: 
Amazon

With the addition of Becky, as Mattel's own Maribeth Elmes told the New York Times at the time, "Barbie's world is more like the everyday world.''

In 1998, Becky was a school photographer, In 2000, Becky was a Paralympian at the Olympics in Sydney. But soon after those incarnations, Becky was discontinued due to design problems involving Becky being unable to fit inside Barbie's Dream House. 

Mattel hasn't released a Barbie in a wheelchair since. 

Becky the school photographer and Becky the Paralympian
Source: 
Amazon

Although other doll companies have produced wheelchairs for their dolls, like American Girl and various doll companies that produce accessories for 18-inch dolls, those are usually parts of "Get well" sets as if someone's doll got hurt, not as if the doll actually uses a wheelchair. 

So now Lammily, the doll company that's risen to fame these past few years after creating a more accurately proportioned girl doll with stretch marks and acne, a boy doll with a tummy and a girl doll with sanitary pads, is trying to change the game yet again, launching a Kickstarter campaign on Wednesday to support its own wheelchairs for fashion dolls like Barbie.

According to Lammily's founder, Nickolay Lamm, he was drawn to look into the matter after he found out about Mattel's past with the chairs, and also the complete lack of wheelchairs for dolls of Barbie's size to this day. 

A curvy Barbie doll in Lammily's wheelchair
Source: 
Lammily

"The U.S. is known for treating people with disabilities with respect and equality, unlike some other countries which may not even care to make their sidewalks wheelchair accessible," Lamm said in an interview. "Being in the toy world, it was only natural for me to try to find the available wheelchairs for fashion dolls. I couldn't find anything. It didn't make sense to me that fashion dolls can have chairs, tables, cars, mansions — pretty much any accessory you can think of, but not a wheelchair." 

As for exactly why other doll companies haven't jumped at the chance to show dolls using wheelchairs, Lamm thinks it has to do with companies not realizing there's a demand, and not feeling confident enough to try to create products that may fill this void. 

"My guess is that toy manufacturers need to see that there's a big enough market for fashion doll wheelchairs before investing their resources into it," Lamm said. "Before Lammily was crowdfunded in March 2014, the basic assumption in the toy industry (from the very highest levels) is that there isn't a big enough market for 'realistic' fashion dolls. So, if this wheelchair crowdfunding campaign is successful, I feel it can show them that there is indeed a market, which can usher in a new era of toys." 

Lammily
Source: 
Kickstarter

The wheelchair itself is bright blue and adjustable to fit dolls that are the size of Barbie dolls, Lammily dolls, Disney Princess Dolls, Monster High dolls and so on. 

And beyond concern for the chair's construction and versatility, which was apparently its downfall back in the late '90s, Lamm also went so far as to reach out to programs that work with young people in wheelchairs in order to see the impact the chairs would have, eventually landing on Ayita Wheelchair Dance, which provides dance classes for people who use wheelchairs. 

Kids at Ayita Wheelchair Dance playing with the wheelchair
Source: 
Lammily

What Lamm saw (parts of which can be seen in the campaign's video) was stunning. 

"Watching the girls dancing in their wheelchairs was incredibly inspiring. And then, seeing how excited they were to play with fashion dolls using a toy wheelchair for the very first time, it gave me a new sense of how important this project is," Lamm said. 

Lammily
Source: 
Kickstarter

The reason why Lamm remains so dedicated to inclusivity in the doll world is simple: Representation breeds respect. 

"To me, toys are like a diorama of life," Lamm said. "If a physically disabled child could see a fashion doll rolling around in her own wheelchair, if kids classified as mobility-disabled by the world could be exposed early on to this sort of positive imagery associated with ableism, then maybe we could shake some of the stigma that surrounds disability and being in a wheelchair." 

Lammily has a history of having incredibly successful Kickstarter campaigns, with its campaigns for its realistically proportioned girl and boy dolls making well over their set fundraising goals, so it's safe to say that Lammily's wheelchair will get full support as well. And that's good news especially because a portion of proceeds from all chairs sold will be donated not only to Ayita Wheelchair Dance but Big Dreams Children's Foundation, which provides prosthetics and adaptive equipment to orphaned children. 

Lammily
Source: 
Kickstarter

Although Lammily is a relatively new company, it's leading the pack when it comes to diversity in the doll world — and it may actually already be having an effect on Barbie. In 2014, Lammily's crowdfunding for its realistic-looking girl doll made headlines worldwide and less than one year later, not so coincidentally, Barbie announced its curvy, tall and short Barbies. 

So maybe, just maybe, this wheelchair will give Barbie some ideas as well. 

You can watch the entire campaign video below: 

Source: YouTube

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Rachel Lubitz

Rachel is a senior Style writer at Mic. She previously worked for The Washington Post's Style section for more than three years. Feel free to contact her at rachel@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Amid new revelations, here’s what we’ve learned about the Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr.

The picture of Natalia Veselnitskaya is coming into clearer focus.

Republican Senator urges whoever leaked Russia/Sessions phone calls to release whole conversation

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants the person who leaked intelligence about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to come forward with more information.

Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort now to testify before Senate committee behind closed doors

Trump Jr. and Manafort have avoided a subpoena and will testify behind closed doors — for now.

Hope Hicks reportedly tried to rein Trump in during explosive ‘Times’ interview. It didn’t work.

The low-profile Trump Whisperer is one of the few in the president's orbit to enjoy job security.

Scaramucci once asked Obama if he’d be softer on Wall Street. It didn’t end well.

The exchange came during a CNBC town hall on the financial crisis, two years into Obama’s presidency.

Trump blasts Hilary Clinton, Comey and ‘Amazon Washington Post’ in tweet storm

He also defended Don Jr. and called Democrats "obstructionists" with "no ideas."

Amid new revelations, here’s what we’ve learned about the Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr.

The picture of Natalia Veselnitskaya is coming into clearer focus.

Republican Senator urges whoever leaked Russia/Sessions phone calls to release whole conversation

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants the person who leaked intelligence about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to come forward with more information.

Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort now to testify before Senate committee behind closed doors

Trump Jr. and Manafort have avoided a subpoena and will testify behind closed doors — for now.

Hope Hicks reportedly tried to rein Trump in during explosive ‘Times’ interview. It didn’t work.

The low-profile Trump Whisperer is one of the few in the president's orbit to enjoy job security.

Scaramucci once asked Obama if he’d be softer on Wall Street. It didn’t end well.

The exchange came during a CNBC town hall on the financial crisis, two years into Obama’s presidency.

Trump blasts Hilary Clinton, Comey and ‘Amazon Washington Post’ in tweet storm

He also defended Don Jr. and called Democrats "obstructionists" with "no ideas."