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Barbie doll with Down syndrome launched for the first time: 'Huge step forward for inclusion'

'This Barbie serves as a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of representation,' said Kandi Pickard, NDSS president and CEO.

Barbie doll with Down syndrome launched for the first time: 'Huge step forward for inclusion'
Cover Image Source: Facebook/ Mattel and National Down Syndrome Society

In an effort to be more inclusive and to have a wide range of dolls, the toy manufacturer Mattel has come with the first-ever Barbie doll with Down syndrome. According to CBS News, the company worked in close association with the National Down Syndrome Society to make sure that the doll represented a person with Down syndrome. The doll's dress has butterflies and is in yellow and blue colors, which are used for Down syndrome awareness. Also, the doll is seen wearing a pendant necklace with three chevrons which represent the three copies of the 21st chromosome. The Barbie also has ankle foot orthotics, which many children with Down syndrome wear for support.



Kandi Pickard, the NDSS president and CEO, said in a press release, "This Barbie serves as a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of representation." "It is a huge step forward for inclusion and a moment that we are celebrating."



Speaking about the new Barbie doll, Kim Culmone, Senior VP, Head of Design, Barbie, told Good Morning America, "We brought the doll with Down syndrome to life in close partnership with the National Down Syndrome Society. Through this collaboration, we were able to ensure the doll and all the design elements and details were an accurate representation of a person with Down syndrome. This is important not just for people with Down syndrome and their families, but also every individual out there who wants to play with dolls – whether they have a disability or not," Michelle Sagan of the National Down Syndrome Society told CBS News.



According to Sagan, the company contacted the society a year ago. They participated in many meetings and strategy calls together. "Barbie was constantly asking for feedback and welcoming our ideas both big and small," Sagan recalled. Moreover, Charlotte Woodward and Kayla McKeon, women with Down syndrome, were also part of these meetings, providing guidance on the design and doll's style.



In February, the company introduced its first doll with scoliosis. The new line was for Barbie's younger sister, Chelsea. They included curvature of the spine and a removable back brace for the doll. Through that, the company wanted to normalize the equipment and encourage inclusion among children. This year, Mattel's 2023 Fashionista lineup has a variety of dolls that involves dolls wearing braces and a Ken Fashionista doll with a prosthetic leg. Lisa McKnight, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Barbie and Dolls said in a statement, "Our goal is to enable all children to see themselves in Barbie while also encouraging children to play with dolls who do not look like themselves." "Doll play outside of a child's own lived experience can teach understanding and build a greater sense of empathy, leading to a more accepting world."


In the past, Barbie dolls have been criticized for being overly sexual and too thin. Mattel has been changing that by bringing in more diverse dolls. They developed Barbie dolls with a hearing aid, prosthetic limb, a wheelchair and also, a skin condition called vitiligo a while ago. "Barbie has evolved significantly over the past several years as we've continued to increase our commitment to representation with a variety of diverse dolls," said Culmone.

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