Barbie launches first doll with Down’s Syndrome in move to make the toy world more inclusive

Model Ellie Goldstein in a Red top holding the new Barbie doll with Down Syndrome

Mattel has unveiled its first-ever Barbie doll with Down’s Syndrome, a toy designed to represent and celebrate people with the disability.

The toy company worked alongside USA’s National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), to design the doll and ensure the doll accurately represents a person with Down Syndrome.

What is Down Syndrome?

Down’s Syndrome is when you’re born with an extra chromosome. People with Down’s Syndrome will have some level of learning disability, distinctive facial characteristics and an increased risk of heart and digestive issues. However, they’ll also have a range of abilities. Some people will be more independent and do things like get a job, whilst other’s might need more regular care.

Lady with Down Syndrome holding the first Barbie with Down Syndrome

As a result of the consultation, the Barbie features a shorter frame and longer torso to reflect the common physical characteristics of people with Down Syndrome. She also has a rounder face shape, with smaller ears, a flat nasal bridge and eyes which are slightly slanted in an almond shape.

The doll’s pink pendant necklace features three upward chevrons to represent the three copies of the 21st chromosome, and her palms also include a single line, a characteristic often associated with people with Down’s Syndrome.

The president and CEO of the National Down Syndrome Society who is also a parent of a child with Down’s Syndrome, emphasised the importance of the launch:

She said: “This doll is about representation, awareness, acceptance, and inclusion…it isn’t just a Barbie with Down syndrome. It’s a representation of our entire community. It was an honor working with Barbie on the Barbie doll with Down syndrome…this means so much for our community, who for the first time, can play with a Barbie doll that looks like them. 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.”  Kandi Pickard

British model Ellie Goldstein who teamed up on a campaign with Mattel for the launch, spoke of the joy she felt when she first saw a Barbie with the same condition as her.

She said: “I am so happy that there is a Barbie with Down’s syndrome…seeing the doll, I felt so overwhelmed – it meant a lot to me and I’m so honoured and proud that Barbie chose me to show the doll to the world…Diversity is important to me as people need to see more people like me out there in the world and not be hidden away”

Mattel believe that children’s early experiences help shape their thoughts and perceptions – and that Barbie can play an important role in this process, allowing them to develop empathy and a sense of inclusivity.

“As the most diverse doll line on the market, Barbie plays an important role in a child’s early experiences, and we are dedicated to doing our part to counter social stigma through play. 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. We are proud to introduce a Barbie doll with Down Syndrome to better reflect the world around us and further our commitment to celebrating inclusion through play.” – Lisa McKnight, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Barbie & Dolls, Mattel.

The Barbie brand, first launched in 1959, has faced its fair share of criticism in the past and has been accused of presenting an unrealistic body image, however the brand appears to have worked hard over the years to offer a more diverse range of dolls. It is now the most inclusive doll line on the market – with over 175 looks offering a variety of eye colours, hair colours and textures, body types, and disabilities, including dolls that use a wheelchair, some with prosthetic limbs, and hearing aids.

The historic launch has been met with widespread acclaim and has been praised by parents with children who have Down’s Syndrome, with many expressing their joy all over social media.

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