Share a Smile Becky ("Wheelchair Barbie") TRU Exclusive 1996
[Share a Smil]

Share a Smile Becky (\"Wheelchair Barbie\") TRU Exclusive 1996

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Date Added: Wednesday 23 August, 2006

by paul cunningham

News Quote From !997...
Barbie's new friend Becky has a wheelchair
May 21, 1997
Web posted at: 9:32 p.m. EDT (0132 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- "Share a Smile Becky," the new Barbie doll in a hot pink wheelchair, was rolled out Wednesday to the delight of disabled children like 9-year-old Hannah Withers.

Hannah, who has cerebral palsy, gleefully clutched the doll and stroked her hair. "She's in a wheelchair," she exclaimed with a huge grin. Hannah's wheelchair is bright purple.

Toy-maker Mattel hopes the doll will help change attitudes and stereotypes about the disabled, and help children with disabilities build self-esteem.

Becky's legs, you can bend the knees," said Hannah's mother, Tina. "This is something Hannah is working on. Hopefully, she can teach her doll to walk as she learns herself."

Other parents share her excitement.

"When you look for a toy for kids with physical limitations, it's hard to find something they can identify with and stimulate them," said Blake Ainsworth, father of Caroline, a disabled 6-year-old.

Mattel says it strives for diversity

Barbie was introduced in 1959. And Mattel says it's time her family became more inclusive.

"We for quite some time have had ethnic diversity in Barbie's world, but we were overdue in terms of really offering a friend who has a disability," said Nancy Zwiers, senior vice president for marketing.

While Mattel is the largest toy-maker to market a disabled doll, it is not alone.

Minnesota-based Cultural Toys introduced a rag doll in 1995 in a wheelchair. Pleasant Company, the Wisconsin toy company that makes the American Girl Collection, also has a wheelchair accessory for its line of dolls.

John Kemp, the CEO of Very Special Arts tells us about the positive self image of the new Barbie

Fisher Price makes a toy bus with a wheelchair ramp, and Little Tikes has a dollhouse with a ramp, analysts said.

Some features of Becky may be changed

For now, Becky's wheelchair won't fit in most Barbie houses -- even the elevator is too small. And unlike real wheelchairs, Becky's has no seat belt, so she tumbles out easily. Activists would like to see that changed.

"Everything they can do to promote the whole accessibility of the world, to children, to anyone with a disability, we want," said Patricia McGill Smith of National Parent Network on Disabilities.

For the first year, Becky will be sold exclusively at Toys R Us. The suggested retail price is $19.99. Mattel says she's already its best-selling exclusive doll, with nearly 6,000 sold in the last few weeks.

The editor of a magazine for the physically challenged isn't surprised.

"I think there's a heck of a lot of money to be made from this. We're talking about a market of 50 million Americans, spending about $700 billion a year, Charles Riley, editor of We magazine, said. "It's a lot of money."

Disabled groups don't care if Mattel makes money doing the right thing. They're just happy to see the icon of physical perfection being used to how that disabilities can be beautiful, too.

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars! [5 of 5 Stars!]

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