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 Change.org.