Did you know I have my own doll company? Well, you probably know already, but I wanted to talk about it some more because I've been working on something really exciting for the future of the brand lately!
I created Special Dolls because at the time, there wasn't any representation of dolls with disabilities that had actual backstories- not 'wow she's disabled that's her only character trait!' Since launching my first doll, Elliana, I've learned a lot about what it really takes to run a company, and it's been a pretty good experience. But the thing I love the most is seeing photos of little girls with Elliana dolls and smiling because they have a doll like them- which is why I did it in the first place! Since launch, more companies have been increasing their disabled representation, including American Girl themselves making Joss, a surfer and cheerleader who's partially deaf, Girl of the Year this year. Seeing this happen makes me pretty hopeful for the future of disabled representation in toys, and I can't wait to release Katrina, my next doll, eventually!
But there's another category where three-dimensional disabled characters are hard to find- TV and film, especially in content made for children. In a 2019 report, 16% of children's TV shows had a disabled character, and none of them were leads or central characters- many of them were villains or defined by their disability and not useful to the plot. According to another one, 1.6% of speaking characters in all 2019 movies were disabled- and the number for children's movies are probably less than 1 percent. As a disabled girl, I know how important positive representation is for disabilities, especially in things made for kids and teens. And even though I've always been adding representation to my own work, it just makes my blood boil knowing how lacking it is- an adult shouldn't be like "wow random teenager, you wrote a disabled character that isn't just a stereotype!" (Yeah... that really happened a few months back when I was doing research for my movie.) So I've decided I want to do more... stay tuned for that, and while you wait, you can go to special-dolls.com and check Elliana out!