Generally when Lego releases a new toy set, it's cause for celebration among children and frantic recalculation of finances for their parents. This time, though, some parents are unhappy with Lego's Duplo Community People set for reasons that have nothing to do with exorbitant prices. In theory, they should be rejoicing; after years of petitioning, Lego has finally included a figure with a disability in one of their sets. In fact, the Duplo Community People Set promises to help children explore "gender, age, relationships and the unique roles and responsibilities of people in the community" through its inclusion of a variety of figures. It's awesome stuff, right?
However, parents were surprised to find that rather than a girl with hearing aids or a little boy with a cane, the figure with a disability is an elderly man in a wheelchair, pushed around by a younger toy. Rebecca Atkinson, co-founder of the online campaign group Toy Like Me, claims that the figure perpetuates the perception of disability as something that only happens to the elderly.
"We applaud Lego for producing a wheelchair-using Duplo figure,” she said in a press release,Yahoo reports. “But it’s so disappointing that the only wheelchair-using figure across all Lego products is an elderly person being pushed along by a younger figure. What does this say to children about disability?"
Here's what the set in question looks like:
In an open letter to Lego on Change.org, Atkinson writes that the 2.8 million disabled children in the United States are all too often "excluded or misrepresented by the very industry that exists to create their entertainment." Considering that her petition has garnered almost 18,000 of the desired 25,000 signatures and the Toy Like Me Facebook page has 23,000 likes, she's obviously not the only parent who feels this way. (Bustle reached out to Lego for comment but had received no response by press time.)
Earlier this year, the efforts of Toy Like Me paid off when British doll company Makies put out a line of customizable disability-inclusive dolls called... you guessed it, Toy Like Me. Similarly, Lammily the "realistic Barbie" allows children to add as many flaws as they want: acne, cellulite, and stretch marks are just a few of the options available to make her seem more, well, realistic. Who among us hasn't had some serious breakouts in her day?
When you add in the ethnically-ambiguous Mixis, girl power-infused GoldieBlox, and even a superhero Barbie, it's clear that even if Lego still hasn't gotten it quite right yet, the toy market is becoming increasingly diverse. A new movement in dolls is appears to be on the way, and I can't wait to see where it leads us.