A bright and adorable 10-year-old is petitioning the American Girl brand to name a doll with a disability as its 2015 "Girl of the Year" because "disabled girls are American girls too," she says.
Melissa Shang launched a petition on Change.org titled "American Girl: Release an American Girl with a disability." Melissa has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, which damages the peripheral nerves, causing muscle weakness and decreased muscle size, according to the Mayo Clinic. She uses a wheelchair.
Melissa has been a fan of the American Girl dolls since she was 7 years old. Her favorites are the "Girl of the Year" dolls, a special edition character that highlights an overarching theme for the year with a back story focusing on a modern-day issue. In the past, these dolls have promoted issues like community service and anti-bullying efforts.
But a doll with a disability has not yet been added to that list.
Melissa's petition says:
"For once, I don’t want to be invisible or a side character that the main American Girl has to help: I want other girls to know what it’s like to be me, through a disabled American Girl’s story. Disabled girls might be different from normal kids on the outside. They might sit in a wheelchair like I do, or have some other difficulty that other kids don’t have. However, we are the same as other girls on the inside, with the same thoughts and feelings. American Girls are supposed to represent all the girls that make up American history, past and present. That includes disabled girls."
American Girl, a subsidiary of Mattel, has made strides in bringing diversity to its products. Besides selling dolls with a variety of racial, ethnic and religious back stories, last year it introduced bald dolls to represent girls experiencing hair loss, and it began offering "Special Sparkle" accessories like a hearing aid and a guide dog.
“We have a long history of speaking to diversity and making girls feel good about themselves, and this is just another way we are expanding on the idea,” spokeswoman Julie Parks said at the time, according to ABC News.
Melissa's petition has received more than 300 signatures, but still needs more than 9,000 to reach its goal.
(h/t Rookie Mag)