In recent years, Mattel—one of America’s most popular toy manufacturers—has made focused efforts to increase the diversity and inclusion represented in its toy lineup. The company’s initiatives have been most visible in the wide range of new doll collections produced by one of its flagship brands, Barbie. From its Inspiring Women collection to its vast array of dolls with varying skin tones, body types, hair textures, and disabilities, the iconic doll manufacturer has strived to make it possible for more young kids to see themselves represented in their dolls. And now, the company has announced its first-ever Barbie doll with behind-the-ear hearing aids.
When developing the doll, Barbie turned to Dr. Jen Richardson, who is a leading practitioner in educational audiology. With more than 18 years of experience in the field, the hearing loss advocacy expert helped designers accurately imitate behind-the-ear hearing aids for the new toy. “I'm honored to have worked with Barbie to create an accurate reflection of a doll with behind-the-ear hearing aids,” Richardson says. “It's inspiring to see those who experience hearing loss reflected in a doll…I’m beyond thrilled for my young patients to see and play with a doll who looks like them.”
Barbie’s new hearing-impaired doll will be a part of the brand’s 2022 Fashionistas collection. The new lineup has also expanded to include a doll with a prosthetic leg and a Ken doll with the vitiligo—a skin condition in which pigment is lost in certain areas. In all, the collection now includes over 175 dolls that aim to reflect the true diversity that kids experience in the real world.
“Barbie wholeheartedly believes in the power of representation, and as the most diverse doll line on the market, we are committed to continuing to introduce dolls featuring a range of skin tones, body types and disabilities to reflect the diversity kids see in the world around them,” says Lisa McKnight, Mattel's executive vice president and Global Head of Barbie and Dolls. “It's important for kids to see themselves reflected in product and to encourage play with dolls that don't resemble them to help them understand and celebrate the importance of inclusion.”
The new Barbie doll with behind-the-ear hearing aids is expected to be launched in Walmart, Target, and Amazon in June 2022. Until then, keep an eye out for Barbie on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to keep up with the latest news.