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10-Year-Old Girl Petitions For American Girl Doll With Wheelchair

Melissa Shang is ten years old and she has more American Girl dolls than I ever had (read: none). But she’s not satisfied. Shang, who has Muscular Dystrophy, would love for Mattel to create an American Girl doll who uses a wheelchair. 

Yes, let’s get this out of the way. I’m still bitter I never got an American Girl doll when I was little. Barbies were cool and all but I loved the stories that came along with the 18-inch plastic ladies, and it turns out, Shang does too. According to the petition she put together with help from her sister YingYing Shang, she wrote:

When I was seven, like most of my classmates, I fell in love with American Girl dolls—historical and modern girls with stories about overcoming obstacles. I’ve read all of the books, seen all of the movies, and even visited the American Girl Place in New York City.

But Shang, like myself, has a form of Muscular Dystrophy. While I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy, she has a kind called Charcot-Marie-Tooth. But both cause muscle weakness, among other things, and usually require the use of a wheelchair to get around easier. She’s hoping her petition will give kids like her a doll that looks more like her but also teach others about what it’s like to be a person with a disability.

Being a disabled girl is hard. Muscular Dystrophy prevents me from activities like running and ice-skating, and all the stuff that other girls take for granted. For once, I don’t want to be invisible or a side character that the main American Girl has to help: I want other girls to know what it’s like to be me, through a disabled American Girl’s story.

Disabled girls might be different from normal kids on the outside. They might sit in a wheelchair like I do, or have some other difficulty that other kids don’t have. However, we are the same as other girls on the inside, with the same thoughts and feelings. American Girls are supposed to represent all the girls that make up American history, past and present. That includes disabled girls.

I have high hopes for the petition seeing as how the company already offers accessories which include a service dog and hearing aids, as well as a personalized doll with no hair. Either way, it seems at the very least, a wheelchair accessory would be a perfect addition to the line [Edit: they do have a wheelchair but it's more like the kind hospitals use] but Shang is aiming for owners Mattel to create a whole new person and story, and perhaps present the doll as their Girl of the Year.

You can read more of the petition, sign it, and hear a personal video plea from Shang at

(via HyperVocal)

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  • Becky Garbrick

    I could of sworn they already had an accessory… Either way this is a great idea!

  • MEG

    American Girl does offer a wheelchair accessory for those that want to buy their existing dolls wheel chairs!

    She’s petitioning for the “Girl of the Year” to have a disability, so it’s not just an issue of offering these accessories for young girls, but to actually have a doll with a full character and story arc attached, which would do more in the long run for representation and educating others.

  • Jill Pantozzi

    Ah you’re right, they do: Kind of hospital-y though.

    But she is asking for the whole shebang of new doll, story etc.

  • WheelchairNinja

    Yes, because American Girl is totally going to partner with Colours to create sleek modern chairs for their dolls (holds up sarcasm sign). At best we might get a doll with one of those old caned wheelchairs that I wish I had for steampunk cosplay.

  • Laura Truxillo

    “the company already offers accessories which include a service dog and
    hearing aids, as well as a personalized doll with no hair.”

    I didn’t know that. That’s pretty neat

    Wow. Good for her, speaking up. Honestly, I’d be a little surprised if they didn’t do something like this. They’ve always been pretty good (especially for a toy company) of embracing how many different sorts of girls there are, both in their books and with their toys. They don’t seem like the sort of company to dismiss someone pointing out something like this. A non-able-bodied Girl of the Year would be pretty nifty.

  • Saraquill

    A company called Sew Dolling does something like that. Many of their dolls are amputees that come with prosthetics and crutches. Among the things you can by these dolls are physical therapy equipment.

    That said, American Girl is much more prominent in the public eye, and a girl with a disability sounds like a fine addition. If such a girl ever comes to existence, I hope they don’t push her to the side like they often do Addy, Josephina and Kaya.

  • Anonymous

    “Besides, marketing towards more people=sell more stuff.”

    You would be shocked at the number of businesses and industries (cough *HOLLYWOOD* cough) that do not understand this concept.

  • Anonymous

    Unless I’m mistaken, aren’t most of the “storied” American Girl dolls from past historic periods? I thought the most recent one they have was the hippie, and I don’t even see her on the website. The most recent one I see is from 1974

    So in fact, any accessories she’d have would reflect the tech and wheelchairs of those eras.

    Sadly, I fear the potential market for such a doll would be limited enough that they’d think it necessary to price it prohibitively high. Their crutches are $30, and the wheelchair $38 already. And I HIGHLY doubt they’d mold a new body or anything to properly reflect the physical

    Were I in charge of the company, I’d authorize a one-off for this girl, get the publicity for it, and let the demand of the market determine if it warrants a wide release. All in association with MDA, natch.

  • Ashe


    Marginalized girls of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds deserve to see reflections of themselves: genuine ones, not as living, breathing aesops for those outside of their experiences. Here’s lookin’ at you, Glee.

    I’m eager to see where this’ll go!

  • Anonymous

    Not that this is comparable, but when I was a kid American Girl dolls never had freckles. I wrote a letter asking them why, and if they could make one (as I’m covered in freckles myself, and don’t we all want dolls that are like us? Why is that, anyway?) and they responded that the freckles always looked like chicken pox. I’m glad to see they miraculously found a way around this problem (here’s an idea: don’t make the freckles red!).