A 10-year-old girl is hoping to use her story as impetus for change in the American Doll company. Melissa Shang is leading the call for the famous company to issue an American Girl Girl of the Year doll with a disability, which she says will help others learn more about those with disabilities.
Shang has a form of muscular dystrophy known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth, which causes her to need a wheelchair. So far none of the American Girl dolls released by the company have wheelchairs. You can order a wheelchair or crutches through the website as accessories, but none of the girls themselves actually have a disability. Now Shang has started a petition calling on the company to release a doll with a disability in order to continue their tradition of educating young girls about others.
"Of all the American Girl dolls, my favorites are the Girl of the Years," Shang wrote in the petition. "Every year, American Girl introduces a brand-new character with a story about finding success in the face of challenges today. Girls of the Year come from all different places, from Hawaii to Mexico, and they help girls learn what it's like to be someone else. Girls of the Year have helped me understand how it feels to be someone else."
"However, none of the American Girl Girls of the Year are like me," she continued. "None of them have a disability. Being a disabled girl is hard. 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."
So far the petition has amassed 2,249 signatures. American Girl is no stranger to diversity and offers a variety of popular dolls with unique stories, backgrounds, races, and religious affiliations. Last year the company introduced bald dolls as well as accessories such as a hearing aid, an allergy-free lunch complete with a medical bracelet and a shot "just in case."
"We have a long history of speaking to diversity and making girls feel good about themselves, and this is just another way we are expanding on the idea," spokeswoman Julie Parks said at the time.
Watch Shang talk about the petition here: