Wheelie Imaginative

I’ve been staying with Fat Sister, King Russell and their young daughter Bean over the last few days.

Bean has lots of Duplo building bricks – in fact they used to be Fat Sister’s and mine. As a child I loved building towers and this picture shows Fat Sister and me with a particularly impressive construction.

Over the last few days I’ve been having a load of fun playing with Bean and the blocks. We make a good team; she looks after the figures – the people and the animals  – and I take care of the buildings. I’ve been paying close attention to their structural integrity and I’ve also gone to a lot of trouble to make sure that my constructions are accessible.

Bean’s favourite figure is a wheelchair user, and I was really impressed that the wheelchair could move easily across the blocks.

But toy companies aren’t often this careful. Back in 1997 Mattel introduced Becky, Barbie’s wheelchair using friend. Becky was very popular but children quickly noticed that she couldn’t fit into or move around in any of the other Barbie products, particularly Barbie’s Dream House.

Mattel said they would look into the accessibility of Barbie accessories, but twenty years later disability advocate Monique Kulick looked at the latest versions of the products and found that nothing had changed. And Mattel eventually stopped making Becky altogether.

Representation matters. Wheelchairs are a part of Bean’s life and from watching her play it’s already clear that seeing them represented amongst her toys is important to her. ToyLikeMe campaigns for better depiction of disabled people in children’s toys and has some great suggestions for products you can buy or modify.

I’ve also just ordered a new Hot Wheels toy inspired by Wheelchair stunt rider Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham. I’ve actually ordered two – one for me and one for Bean.

Who knows, maybe one day there will be a Touretteshero action figure!

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