Barbie is championing inclusivity with the announcement of its first doll with Down syndrome.
The doll was created in close partnership with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS).
“Our goal is to enable all children to see themselves in Barbie while also encouraging children to play with dolls who do not look like themselves,” said Lisa McKnight, executive vice president at Mattel Inc.
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes people to be born with an extra chromosome 21. About 1 in 800 babies born every year in Canada have Down syndrome, according to the Canadian Down Syndrome Society.
Some visible traits of Down syndrome include a flatter face, upward-slanted almond-shaped eyes, and a shortened physique.
NDSS worked with Mattel to represent the appearance of a person with Down syndrome in details like these, as well as adding some more subtle touches.
The hands of each doll have a single line on the palm and a curved pinky finger, features associated with the condition.
The Barbie also features orthodontics, which many children with Down syndrome will be familiar with wearing to support their joints.
Non-profit RespectAbility has called the announcement a “huge step forward for inclusion.”
“This Barbie serves as a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of representation. It is a huge step forward for inclusion and a moment that we are celebrating.” https://t.co/2EBddlKRGV #Barbie @NDSS
— RespectAbility (@Respect_Ability) April 26, 2023
They were not alone in congratulating Mattel.
For decades, the iconic Barbie doll has faced criticism for being a role model for girls, setting unrealistic beauty standards, expectations of the female body. But that’s slowly starting to change. Meet the first ever Barbie doll with Down syndromehttps://t.co/rwOHSCPxWD
— Daniela Cado (@Dani_Prica) April 26, 2023
On TikTok, @crawlita celebrated reflections of the community in the new Barbie outfit, which includes colours and symbols of the Down syndrome community.
@crawlita well done @barbie #downsyndrome #barbie #representationmatters #mattel ♬ original sound – Caroline
Kayla McKeon, manager of Grassroots Advocacy at NDSS, was fond of Barbie dolls growing up. But as a kid with Down syndrome, when playing with the limited range of ’90s dolls, she said she “didn’t see myself in them.” Her input in Mattel’s project has helped give kids like her the representation she was missing.