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Paoli Girl Petitions American Girl To Release a Doll with a Disability

Melissa Shang, 10, says "disabled girls are American girls too."

Melissa Shang wants American Girl to name a doll with a disability as its 2015 "Girl of the Year." Credit: YouTube
Melissa Shang wants American Girl to name a doll with a disability as its 2015 "Girl of the Year." Credit: YouTube

Melissa Shang loves American Girl dolls, but she doesn't see herself in them. 

That's why the 10-year-old Paoli resident 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, the Huffington Post reports

Shang launched a petition on Change.org, titled "American Girl: Release an American Girl with a disability." She 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.

Shang has been a fan of the American Girl dolls since she was 7 years old, according to the Huffington Post. 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 states:

"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, the Huffington Post reports. 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

As of Monday evening, Melissa's petition had received nearly 4,500 signatures, about half its goal. 


marion1 December 30, 2013 at 08:00 PM
Saw Melissa on Fox 29 news. She is absolutely adorable. Before American Girl was owned by Mattel, i thought they did have a doll with a wheelchair....but that was probably 20 years ago. The company changed a great deal after Mattel and not for the better sadly. the original history dolls were great. We wish her well!
Joe Lee December 31, 2013 at 03:10 PM
This is beyond stupid. No one wants a doll with a disability. If this happens my daughter and i will boycott and create a petition asking others to do the same until the doll is pulled.
Blair Piotrowski December 31, 2013 at 03:18 PM
Joe Lee - I certainly hope your comment is an ill-conceived attempt at being funny. If not, I urge you to rethink what you are teaching your daughter by such a reaction.
Carolyn Falkowski December 31, 2013 at 04:02 PM
Joe Lee - I hope you are thanking God that your daughter is healthy and abled. You say "no one wants a doll with a disability." Where did you do your research? While it is good that you are willing to get up from your recliner by the TV to do something (i.e., write a petition) I hope that you attain some intelligence, wisdom, and compassion and use that energy to help rather than hurt people who do not meet your strict criteria.
Kelley January 01, 2014 at 07:49 AM
Carolyn, Blair and Marion you are the wise voices on this thread. Let us forgive Joe because it's clear he doesn't have compassion, nor sense. And to be fair, he does have a right to have an opinion. Truth be told he may even be a troll. That being said, this young ladies request is a valid one and will show some children, hopefully Joe's daughter, that we all come into this life with challenges and the way we handle them is what makes a good life.
Charles Schwartz January 01, 2014 at 08:25 AM
How exactly would yiu show a doll with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease?
Kelley January 01, 2014 at 08:37 AM
The doll could simply have a wheel chair or crutches. I have seen the American Girl dolls come with crutches when one of the dolls got a broken leg in a ski accident. It's not that big a deal. Each doll comes with a story and her situation would be understood. This doesn't have to be a big deal. Just do it.
Deb January 01, 2014 at 12:32 PM
American girl already has disability accessories . wheelchair http://store.americangirl.com/agshop/html/search?event=search&site=American+Girl+Shop&Ntx=mode+matchallpartial&Nty=1&Ntt=wheelchair Crutches http://store.americangirl.com/agshop/html/search?event=search&site=American+Girl+Shop&Ntx=mode+matchallpartial&Nty=1&Ntt=crutches
marion1 January 01, 2014 at 12:40 PM
so you could choose the My American Girl Doll and customize skin, hair etc just like you want and then get the accessories ? Perhaps Melissa wants the story books to go with a specifically named disabled doll... like they had Samantha, Kirsten, Molly etc "back in the day". They still have some history dolls but retired the originals. Each one had a set of 6 books too.
Deb January 01, 2014 at 01:09 PM
I understand what she is saying.. they have books based on bringing up a " tradition girl".. giving advice on boys, parties , manners etc, the typical girl things to do. So the books could explain the disease I guess, and give advice on activities, and how to take care of yourself, but shouldnt that come from a MEDICAL professional? I think American doll caters as much as they can to making the dolls for the girls, and adding accessories. All she has to do is submit ideas to the company, but I am sure they cant do all diseases.
Laurie Norsworthy Myers January 03, 2014 at 03:13 PM
I know Melissa...I had the pleasure of driving her to school. She is an amazing, smart, loving, and compassionate young lady! She I'm sure just wants to make others aware that just because you have a disability doesn't mean you are any different than anyone else. To have a doll with a story behind her would I think be very beneficial on showing other young ladies that there is more to a person than just appearance. Girls today can be very cruel to one another and if American Girl is about making positive outcomes then I think it's a great thing that a little girl is doing! Hi Melis! I miss you sweetie! Never give up and always keep your head up! Miss Laurie!😘.

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