The Nuremberg toy fair will be a memorable one this year because the LEGO company revealed a wheelchair-using Lego figurine, complete with helper dog, for the first time in their history, following the #ToyLikeMe equality campaign.
The LEGO figurine was also spotted at the London Toy Fair, and features a beanie-hatted character sitting in a wheelchair, alongside a helper dog. This was one of a new range of mini-figures to be released by the company this year, which also includes an ice-cream vendor, cyclist, picnickers and other characters, in a new park scene developed using bricks from the company’s City range.
This step forward is quite a significant move on their part as it comes after sharp criticism that was levelled at the company for their lack of diversity within their range, as well as their mini-figures. With the launch last year of the equality campaign, #ToyLikeMe, which gained over 20,000 signatures on a Change.org petition, LEGO and other major toy and game producers have started to introduce a wide range of more diverse characters to their offerings.
After an article published in the Guardian newspaper last year by Rebecca Atkinson asked the question, “Why do you never see a Lego mini-figure with a disability?” LEGO stepped up their efforts to produce the wheelchair bound character.
The Guardian article pointed out that LEGO was continuing to exclude around 150 million disabled children worldwide by not including characters with disabilities, and that they should use their power of influence to change cultural perceptions, and that the issue goes beyond their sales figures or disability access.
After the initial call for a change to their range, LEGO at first appeared to resist the appeal, and instead spoke about the ability that children had to use their pieces how they chose, and were able to build their own stories. However, they later seemed to do an about-turn on the subject, and as a result went on to produce the new wheelchair bound character, along with their assistance dog.
On hearing the news about the new mini-figure, the organisers of the #ToyLikeMe campaign were overjoyed, and wrote on their campaign page: “We’ve got genuine tears of joy right now … Lego have just rocked our brick-built world!” They went on to say on Twitter that this was a momentous occasion, and that the message behind it was far bigger than simply a tiny one-inch-tall plastic figure.
The introduction of the wheelchair mini-figure by LEGO comes as welcome news that has many disability groups and advocates cheering. The new figure made it’s debut at both the Nuremberg and London toy fairs this month, and is set for general release to the public this summer.
As Thursday 4th February is International Lego Day, it could be seen as a well-timed addition to the LEGO family, but fans will still have to wait a bit longer to actually get their hands on the new mini-figure.
This news comes at a time where long-time favourite toy doll ‘Barbie’ saw a makeover. The new range of dolls to hit the shops show a wide range of different body shapes, hair types and eye-colour in an effort to help children identify better with the doll. Maybe their could be more to come in the future that include dolls featuring disabilities? We shall have to wait and see.