Want Toys With More Diverse Abilities? There’s #ToyLikeMe For That

Last year, journalist and creativity consultant Rebecca Atkinson noticed a striking absence of disabled characters within her kids’ massive toy collection, so she did a little digging; she discovered that, outside of the occasional broken-leg-with-cast, disabled representation across the entire toy industry amounts to basically nil.

“When I thought about the level of exclusion that was being carried out by these powerful global brands, the pied pipers of childhood,” she told The Guardian, “my rage rolled.” And thus the #ToyLikeMe movement–driven by Atkinson, her co-founders, and a community of families with disabled children tens-of-thousands-strong–was born.

With the London and Nuremberg Toy Fairs sweeping Europe this month, Atkinson and the team just launched a crowd-funding campaign (and a reasonably priced one at that) to fund the creation of a Toy Like Me website, a self-sustaining hub that will connect the families of disabled children with products, services, and info that support and celebrate children’s unique abilities, and that’ll keep pushing Big Toy to roll out more diverse playthings. Atkinson, who grew up without ever seeing toys or characters that wore hearing aids like she did, told The Guardian,

“These parents, from all corners of the world, will have been on a very personal journey. They’ve experienced the shock and grief of finding out that their child is deaf or disabled, the angst of deciding whether to go ahead with a cochlear implant or other invasive procedures, the worry that their child will be excluded from society.”

#ToyLikeMe has already gained support from a range of industry leaders and children’s advocates, including The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson, and hit 10% of its funding goals within the campaign’s first 24 hours. And while Atkinson’s team hasn’t yet gotten a commitment toward more ability-diverse toys from LEGO and some other big companies, the movement does have a growing range of toy-makers on its side; in response to the group’s efforts, Playmobil backed #ToyLikeMe and is now working toward a line of new characters for 2016/2017 release that will positively represent disability. Smaller toy manufacturers like Makie and Weesie Pals, which hand makes plush snuggle-buddies that’re as unique as their owners, are excited for the platform, too.

To read the rest of this article, published in Forbes Magazine, please click here.