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Barbie & Emojis Lead the Way in Disability Representation

Posted on 11/04/2019

Barbies and Emojis may not seem like an obvious source of influence in society, but where reputation is concerned, they have a far greater impact. Representation of minority groups by big brands like Mattel and Apple helps to showcase the individuals affiliated with certain stereotypes, increasing awareness and normalising their traits.

How Are They Representing Disabilities?

Barbie is set to launch 2 new dolls in June, one which will have a prosthetic limb and another with a wheelchair, complete with a ramp to make Barbies dream house accessible to the character. Meanwhile, a range of disabled emojis is being approved for use, including wheelchairs, hearing aids, prosthetic limbs, guide dogs and many more.

What Does This Mean?

Representation is a powerful influencer in society and whether it comes from books, films, TV shows or toys, it can help to shape societies perception of people – for the better. For most, representation is about seeing themselves in pop culture which makes them feel more accepted in society and bring a sense of belonging and relatability. By including disabilities in these mediums, helps to break down the stigma surrounding them and boosts the visibility and awareness of people with disabilities.

Why Now?

More than a billion people in the world have a disability, but until recently representations of their experiences have been few and far between. But back in 2017, government minister Penny Mordaunt called on industries including gaming, fashion and television to urgently increase their representations of people with disabilities after finding out that this was a top concern of young people during research by the Department for Work and Pensions.