LONDON — A new inclusive range of Barbie dolls arrived in the UK this week, including a new Barbie with hearing aids, one with a prosthetic leg, one in a wheelchair and a Ken doll with vitiligo.
Mattel’s “Fashionistas” line is Barbie’s most diverse and inclusive line with over 175 different looks. It aims to offer children dolls with various skin colors, morphologies and disabilities.
“[My daughter] really love it,” Kim Hurley from south London said, referring to her 10-year-old daughter Lexi. “She had a huge smile on her face and said, ‘She’s like me mum and her helpers hearing aids are pink too! ‘”
Lexi lost her hearing nearly two years ago due to a condition called enlarged vestibular aqueducts, which left her profoundly deaf in her left ear and severely deaf in her right ear.
“Seeing a doll with hearing aids like my daughter makes her feel special,” Hurley added. “His hearing aids give him superpowers.”
There are around 11 million people who are deaf or hard of hearing in the UK, according to the British government.
Many parents of deaf children, including Collett from Devon, UK, who declined to give her surname, are celebrating the diverse new range of Barbie dolls for opening up new conversations.
“I think it’s amazing,” Collett told ABC News. She also said she “hopes” the line will bring greater awareness of issues related to hearing conditions.
The new line was launched in the UK with the help of Rose Ayling-Ellis, a deaf British actress from birth. She is also an activist for the deaf community and campaigned for the British Sign Language Act, which would recognize BSL as a language of England, Wales and Scotland, to be passed by the UK government.
Ayling-Ellis was pictured for the launch alongside a group of models who are also activists, including student and vitiligo awareness campaigner Jamie Stewart; model, yoga teacher and prosthetic leg user Faisha; and Renée Valentine, model and paraplegic wheelchair user.
“When @barbie told me they were releasing a doll with a hearing aid I was so excited,” Ayling-Ellis wrote in the caption of an Instagram post, announcing the new dolls. “When I was little, I drew hearing aids on my Barbie dolls to look like me – now deaf children don’t have to!”
“I’m so happy kids can see even more inclusion in toys now,” she added. “Love that @mattel is releasing more dolls that encourage kids to celebrate and embrace their differences!”
Comments on Ayling Ellis Instagram post were quickly inundated with support and enthusiasm from parents and people living with disabilities.
“It’s amazing! When I got my first hearing aid, my mom made my teddy bears little cardboard hearing aids to make me feel less alone. It’s so important that the toys are more inclusive,” wrote an Instagram user.
“I was so happy when I saw Mattel doing this,” another user commented. “I have 2 daughters who wear hearing aids and I know my youngest would love it [B]Arbie. It has already been ordered for her. Wish they had done this years ago for my eldest. I wish more toy companies would take note and start including other disabilities on their products so that all children with disabilities feel included.”
When creating the new line of dolls, Mattel consulted with hearing experts to accurately describe their hearing aids.
Rosie Eggleston, head of attendance at the National Deaf Children’s Society, described the new Barbie line as “a really positive step towards inclusion”.
“It will mean a lot to deaf children who wear hearing aids, as they will see their own experiences reflected in a truly mainstream toy,” Eggleston told ABC News. “It could really help them to be proud of their deafness.”