This story is being reposted from an article found on pintrest.
Every time I get on Pinterest my husband says – “Anything Pinteresting?” – so we decided to do something new. Every so often I’ll link a new blog post to the “Pintersting” board on my Pinterest account about something interesting found on Pinterest, or something interesting found in real life. This is all in hopes to show people that universally designed places and products are essential, beautiful & used by most anyone to make their lives easier, no matter their ability.
I was browsing around on Pinterest the other day and found something interesting… a Barbie in a wheelchair! However, the caption underneath was quite telling of reality. Barbie didn’t fit into her Dream House, so instead of redesigning the home, they took her off the market.
I searched around the internet for other sources and AMS Vans Blog wrote a post on this topic in 2011. You can read the article here and this is my source for information and quotes.
“Share A Smile Becky” was made in 1997 and went through a few modifications:
The original Becky could not fit through the Barbie Dream House front door, and her hair was also so long that it would get caught in the wheelchairs wheels. Attempting to make the doll as real-life as possible, Mattel did some adjustments to Becky making her wheelchair smaller and her hair shorter. The new and improved Barbie was wanted in high demand and flew off the shelves in less than two weeks.
Even after the modifications a 17 year old girl with cerebral palsy still said Becky couldn’t get into the dream home elevator. Mattel soon discontinued Becky as well as another para-olympic racing version of Becky.
share a smile becky barbie Photo Credit WAVY.com
So what does this say about how we view accessibility in our homes and communities? Granted this was back in the late 1990s, but a lot of attitudes are still the same.
Many believe that the company discontinued the wheelchair Barbie doll because it would be much easier to take her off the shelves than redesign the whole Barbie community such as housing, cars, and various accessories. A spokesperson stated the company, “might recreate another wheelchair-using doll in the future, but has no definite plans to do so.”
A few thoughts and how this relates to reality:
1.Becky couldn’t go “visit” her friend Barbie because she couldn’t get into Barbie’s home.
2.Becky had a hard time moving around in her home. As a young independent woman, it’s hard to not get frustrated when you can’t get around to do your daily activities.
3.Becky tried to adapt to her environment and even got a new wheelchair, cut her hair, and had a few home modifications done (i.e. wider doorways in a different dream home) and it still wasn’t sufficient.
4.So what did they do? The designers decided it wasn’t worth the effort and gave up.
Sounds like the person making changes to Becky’s environment needed to partner with an OT to look at her activities and how she does things. If the designers of the Dream Home knew what was important to Becky to perform her daily tasks, they could have make changes to help her move around the home easier, use her car, and the other products that all other Barbies and Kens use.
This is EXACTLY what needs to happen in the design of our places, products, and programs today in homes and communities. We need to look at how the design effects the function in our environments and make changes that can work for the Barbies and Beckys out there.
**Side note and confession: When I was a little girl and played with my Barbies, I would wrap wet tissues on my Barbie’s leg and let it dry to look like a cast. The dollhouse my grandfather made me only had steps to get to multiple levels. Barbie got creative and would tie a ribbon around her waist and hoist herself up the side of the house to reach the top floor. I guess this was my solution as a kid in elementary school… creative home modifications by an OT in the making 😉