DO-IT and Barbie in the News

Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

Two DO-IT participants made the news in articles published recently in The Seattle Times and San Jose Mercury News, expressing their opinions about Barbie's newest friend. In the Seattle Times front-page article June 7, "Barbie's friend finds doors closed," Shelby Gilje states, "Becky, the strawberry-blond babe in the hot-pink wheelchair, has a problem. Big time." Becky is the new Barbie friend recently released by Mattel as "Share a Smile Becky." Advocates for people with disabilities heralded Becky's arrival, although some have objected to the perky name (Why not Becky the veterinarian, software engineer, or scientist?).

However, as Gilje points out, Barbie and friends have not read the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires accessible entrances for wheelchairs. Becky's wheelchair, it turns out, doesn't fit through the doors of the Barbie dollhouse. That's fueled lively conversations on the Internet, including discussion lists maintained by DO-IT. Gilje reports that staffers at the Easter Seal Society of Washington in Seattle received an e-mail from Kjersti, a junior at Curtis High School in Tacoma, and Priscilla, a Bellevue Community College student. Johnson and Wong are participants in the DO-IT program and learned the bad news about Becky via e-mail exchanges with others. "How ironic and true housing for people with disabilities that is not accessible! Mattel said they will redesign the houses in the future to accomodate now if it were that easy for the rest of us!" their message said. "This (inaccessibility) is what we live with every day," added Johnson. "When you're having a bad day, it's good to have something to laugh about."