In 1997, Mattel produced a wheelchair-using Barbie doll called “Share a Smile Becky.” The doll was a unique way to intertwine Barbie dolls and people with disabilities, making sure no one was left out in the Barbie world. Unfortunately, the doll was eventually discontinued due to ongoing design problems.
The original Becky could not fit through the Barbie Dream House front door, and her hair was also so long that it would get caught in the wheelchairs wheels. Attempting to make the doll as real-life as possible, Mattel did some adjustments to Becky making her wheelchair smaller and her hair shorter. The new and improved Barbie was wanted in high demand and flew off the shelves in less than two weeks.
Despite the reworked Becky Barbie doll, 17-year-old Kjersti Johnson discovered that Becky could not fit into the Dream House’s elevator. Johnson, a high school student with cerebral palsy, complained about the issue stating, “This is what we live with every day… how ironic and true…housing for people with disabilities that is not accessible!”
Mattell stated in the future they intended on making changes to the Barbie house designs, but instead they later rejected the doll and discontinued Becky along with wheelchair-racing Paralympic Becky.
Morgan, who uses a wheelchair, asked her mother, “Aren’t handicapped people pretty enough to be Barbie dolls?” The question prompted her mother, Angela Floyd, to go searching for a doll with disabilities. She ended up getting a hold of a Mattel representative who would not state why the doll was discontinued, however they did send her a doll from the archives. Morgan said upon receiving the doll, “Mommy, it looks like me. It’s me, Mommy!”
Many believe that the company discontinued the wheelchair Barbie doll because it would be much easier to take her off the shelves than redesign the whole Barbie community such as housing, cars, and various accessories. A spokesperson stated the company, “might recreate another wheelchair-using doll in the future, but has no definite plans to do so.”
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