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.