Toy company Mattel revealed its first Barbie doll representing a person with Down syndrome on Tuesday.
Mattel collaborated with the National Down Syndrome Society to create the Barbie and “ensure the doll accurately represents a person with Down syndrome,” the company said.
Design features of the new Barbie were made under guidance from NDSS, Mattel said. In addition to portraying some physical characteristics of a person with Down syndrome, the Barbie’s clothing and accessories carry special meaning.
The blue and yellow on the doll’s dress, accompanied by butterflies, represent symbols and colours associated with Down syndrome awareness. And the three chevrons on the Barbie’s necklace represent how people with Down syndrome have three copies of their 21st chromosome, Mattel said.
In addition, the Barbie wears ankle foot orthotics, which some children with Down syndrome use.
“This means so much for our community, who for the first time, can play with a Barbie doll that looks like them,” NDSS President and CEO Kandi Pickard said in a statement. “This Barbie serves as a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of representation.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Down syndrome is the “most common chromosomal condition” diagnosed in the U.S. today. About 6,000 babies are born across the country each year with Down syndrome, the CDC said.
Barbie’s new doll representing a person with Down syndrome is part of Mattel’s 2023 Fashionistas line, which is aimed at increasing diversity and inclusivity. Previous dolls that have been introduced to the Fashionistas line include a Ken doll with a prosthetic leg, a Barbie with hearing aids and dolls with a skin condition called vitiligo.
“We are proud to introduce a Barbie doll with Down syndrome to better reflect the world around us and further our commitment to celebrating inclusion through play,” Lisa McKnight, executive vice president and global head of Barbie and Dolls at Mattel, said in a statement.