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When I Heard Why 'Share a Smile Becky' Was Discontinued

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Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to say that I feel some people draw out every unfair part of society and want an American Girl doll to be available with every single combination of conditions possible. I understand that is not feasible, and I get why.

On the other hand, Mattel made a Barbie back in 1997, “Share a Smile Becky” who happened to be in a wheelchair. I got this adorable Barbie mailed to me just last year by a role model and mentor of mine who happens to use a wheelchair and has her whole life. I found it extra-special because I suddenly became ill with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome in September 2015, and I now use a wheelchair on bad days and for certain events.

Becky wheelchair doll banner showing Share a Smile, School Photographer and Paralympic Becky.
Becky wheelchair dolls including Share a Smile, School Photographer and Paralympic Becky.

I think anyone who uses a wheelchair for even one day will be able to explain all of the inconveniences and issues they faced. As a society it seems that sometimes we think of making something accessible as an afterthought, if at all.

Back in 1997 it was pointed out that Share a Smile Becky couldn’t fit though the doorways in the Barbie Dreamhouse, and her wheelchair couldn’t fit in the elevator. At the time they said they would address it. Now, 20 years later, Becky still can’t fit through any of the doorways or elevator, so instead of fixing the problem, Mattel just decided to do away with Share a Smile Becky.

What kind of message does that send to those of us who use a wheelchair? It’s easier to get rid of the person with the disability than fix things to make it work.  No, I’m not hurt and I’m not offended. I’m just annoyed and frustrated. It seems this huge company has no problem making it clear that deleting the person with the “issue” is easier than including us.

Mattel, I’m sorry you chose to send this message, because little girls and boys everywhere deserve better than a parent having to explain to them why Barbie’s friend in a wheelchair isn’t around anymore.

Follow this journey at Smiles in the Trials.

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Originally published: May 7, 2017
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