'Toy Like Me': First the toy industry…next society!
February 2016 represents a record breaking month for both the global toy industry and disabled community. Why? 'Toy Like Me' - the successful social media campaign that has called on the representation of disability in toys - smashed its crowd funding target and inspired toy giants, Lego and Playmobil, to produce less abled figurines for the first time in history.
For some, this may not sound particularly news breaking, but for the 150 million children worldwide living with a disability, this represents a real milestone. To date, these children have only known toys that represent perfection, toys that do not require a wheelchair, a prosthetic arm or leg or a white cane. Ultimately, toys that serve as a reminder that they really are different to their peers.
According to statistics 1 child in every 20 across the UK suffers with a disability. Here at Wenman Healthcare we are regularly at their service, and as a result have developed close links with charities, such as Whizz Kids, Action for Kids, Festival Spirit, Cauldwell Trust, amongst others, to support the many youngsters who have suffered a disabling ailment or injury.
An example that has always stuck in my mind, is that of a young teenage boy who was sadly confined to a wheel chair following a severe accident, where he had suffered a head injury. His parents brought him into our showroom full of apologies as he would sporadically burst out with a violent, vitriolic splurge of expletives. They were highly embarrassed as any parent would be, and were at pains to say how they didn't speak this way and couldn't understand where it came from.
However, what was really striking was how difficult it must be for this poor chap to make his way in the world and be accepted by other children and indeed society at large.
The Wenman Healthcare team fitted him with a new power chair, which gave him a completely new outlook on life – resulting in the most unforgettable beaming smile. Here, something as simple as a power chair, we like to think, had given him back some independence and enabled him to move forward with a new sense of hope and freedom.
We as a community actively promote a racially understanding and accepting society – but can we honestly say we do the same for our less able members? Do we associate the words 'hope' and 'freedom' with power chairs? Accepting and gaining a true perception of disability is extremely important – particularly for able bodied children who would naturally lack an understanding of why other less able children cannot engage with them as normal, run, walk or play as usual.
So, well done 'Toy Like Me' for not only highlighting the lack of representation of disability in toys, but also for forcing society to sit and really think about how the less abled are perceived.
Therefore, if this new era of toys can show children that having a disability it not necessarily sad or abnormal, but just an alternative way of living then I remain hopeful that it will lead to a more tolerant, understanding and accepting society for years to come.