As a little girl, I found the advertisements of American Girl very compelling. After all, what could be better than a doll that comes with a book? Unfortunately, as dolls go, American Girls were always rather expensive and I never actually got one. I can’t really complain, though. My parents did buy me less expensive dolls. Beside, my mom actually made me dolls—sewing them by hand and with her sewing machine.
When I recently received a catalog for American Girl toys in the mail, I felt a bit nostalgic. It’s not that I’m going to buy one or anything. After all, I don’t collect dolls and I have sons, not daughters. (Yes, my sons owned dolls and they each played with them, but nothing like these dolls; nor would they want anything like this.)
Anyway, believe it or not, I do have a point. I flipped through the catalog, because I was feeling nostalgic. I noticed how extensive their line of toys has grown. You can customize your doll as well as buy history-related dolls that come with books. They have a lot more accessories than I remember, including pianos, chateaus, and doll-sized horses—not to mention matching clothes for both doll and girl.
I also noticed something even more unexpected. Among the possible accessories there is a service dog set with a bag of fake treats. Several pages later there is a page full of small accessories. There is a purse and a doll hair brush, a violin and case and a doll stand, and other perfectly ordinary doll accessories. But there’s more than that. There’s a healthy smile kit that includes “braces” for the doll and there’s a wheel chair and a hearing aid.
I stared at the page for a while. I thought back to my own childhood and the complete lack of anything (in the category of toys) that validated the existence and acceptability of children with disabilities. I couldn’t help but see this as a sign of progress. After all, if a toy company like American Girl is making disability-related accessories for dolls, then there is almost certainly a demand for these accessories, and furthermore, the people demanding these accessories are being respected by the company.
It’s such a simple thing, and yet it shows respect and validates the existence and worth of children with disabilities. Now, little girls all over America who want dolls who look like them (and whose parents can afford to spend a hundred dollars on a doll, plus more for the accessories) can have a doll that looks like them, regardless of skin or hair or eye color, and regardless of several common disabilities. There’s something about that that just warms my heart.