Lego, the Danish toy making giant who has brought us colorful plastic bricks for decades, took a strong step towards embracing diversity and difference this week when it revealed its newest minifigure: a young boy in a wheelchair. The boy will be part of a CITY play set that comes out in June, and fans—including my kids, one of whom is autistic—can't wait.
"I've never had a Lego wheelchair before," gushed my youngest son, when I showed him this new minifigure. "I'm so excited to see it!"
#ToyLikeMe was started by Rebecca Atkinson, a mother of two who grew up with hearing aids and who is partially deaf and has tunnel vision.
"When I was a child," says Atkinson, "I never saw myself represented in the toys I played, in the books I read, or in the TV shows that I watched."
Much like the founders of #ChangingtheFaceofBeauty, a campaign working to include more models with disabilities in advertising, Atkinson has used social media to get her message out there. Through Facebook, Twitter, crowdfunding, and a Change.org petition, #ToyLikeMe has gotten the attention of large toymakers like Lego and Playmobil.
"I would like to recast how we think about disability in the children's industry," Atkinson says. "We would like to continue to call on the industry for positive disability representation. There's a lot of fear like 'Oh we are going to offend people,' and I think the whole children's industry needs to [take a] more celebratory approach."
I absolutely agree—and celebrating difference has long been one of my goals as I parent a child with special needs, and now I'm so happy to see this reflected in the toys my kids play with! So, all that's to say keep up the good work, #ToyLikeMe, and high five Lego for being so forward-thinking!