American Girl Dolls is a popular line of 18-inch dolls with accompanying books, clothes and accessories. First released in 1986, the dolls and their stories were originally intended to focus on various periods in American history.
In recent years, when the dolls began telling stories of modern and contemporary life, American Girl Dolls became known for even more than teaching history. The dolls have received much praise for the diversity within their products. They have not only introduced dolls of various ethnicities and religions, they’ve even introduced dolls without hair and a hearing aid accessory for the dolls.
American Girl Dolls believe that by having dolls that they can relate to, girls can feel more comfortable in their own skin and will have an easier time accepting themselves. But despite the diverse choices, 10-year-old Melissa Shang still could not relate to the dolls she loved. That is why she began a petition to release an American Doll with a disability.
Shang has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease which forces her to use a wheelchair. Shang is an avid fan of American Girl Dolls and wishes for nothing more than to find a doll she can relate to. More specifically, Shang enjoys the Girl of The Years. Every year, American Girl introduces a new character who faces common-day challenges.
Sheng’s goal is to have the next Girl of The Year have a disability as well. Her heartfelt petition states:
None of the American Girl Girls of the Year are like me. None of them have a disability.
Being a disabled girl is hard. Muscular Dystrophy prevents me from activities like running and ice-skating, and all the stuff that other girls take for granted. 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.
Disabled girls might be different from normal kids on the outside. They might sit in a wheelchair like I do, or have some other difficulty that other kids don’t have. However, we are the same as other girls on the inside, with the same thoughts and feelings. American Girls are supposed to represent all the girls that make up American history, past and present. That includes disabled girls.
Read her full petition here and watch her inspiring story below.