Author Archives: Beth Moseley

Children should be able to play with a toy that reflects their deafness or disability / The Limping Chicken

Rebecca Atkinson writes about why Deaf and disabled children need to see toys like them and how a new online campaign is calling on the toy industry for more inclusion and representation of disabilities in the toy box.

hearingaidlottie

How do you give a Deaf or disabled child self esteem? A sense of confidence in who they are? Show them it’s OK to be like them. Show them a ‘toy like them’.

When I was growing up in the 80s I never saw a doll like me. Although my favourite Barbie had brown hair like I did and clothes that looked like mine, a RaRa skirt, some knee high white socks, she wasn’t really like me because I had two hearing aids and she didn’t.

In the real world, there were people like me. In the doll world, I didn’t exist.

I went to mainstream school. I was the only Deaf kid in the class. I wore my hair down over my ears and pretended not to be different from the rest.

I never saw Deaf people on TV. There were no Deaf adults in my life and none of my toys had hearing aids. Deafness was invisible in everything I saw.

Then when I was a teenager something happened that was remarkable enough for me to remember it 25 years later.

I was reading a newspaper when I saw an article about global toy giant Mattel, who were bringing out an American Sign Language Barbie in the USA.

She had glossy hair, a pretty face and hands moulded into the shape of an ‘I love you’ sign. She came with a book of ASL signs and a teacher’s white board.

She was ‘ASL Teacher Barbie’. I didn’t know if she was meant to be Deaf herself or a hearing teacher of Deaf children, but in my eyes she was just ‘Deaf Barbie’.

At 15, I was now way too old to play with Barbie and at that time ‘Deaf Barbie’ wasn’t available in the UK so I never actually got to meet her.

But I remember the feeling even knowing about her gave me – if a huge multinational toy company like Mattel thought ASL was cool enough to make a Deaf Barbie, then being Deaf must be OK.

The doll with Deafness – it was a simple thing – but a huge and mainstream, positive affirmation of who and what I was.

Mattel have now discontinued ‘Deaf Barbie’ and whilst you can still find her online she comes with a hefty price tag of between £60-£120. Despite 25 years passing, there are no other affordable dolls like her.

The toy world is still overwhelmingly hearing and non-disabled. What does that say to Deaf and disabled children? That they aren’t worth it? That they’re invisible in the toys they play with? That they’re invisible in society?

Aside from dolls, there are a limited range of toys representing disability in existence but they tend to be either part of sets relating to medical situations, toys hospitals for example, or specialist items like dummy processors available from Cochlear Implant manufacturers which can be attached to a teddy or doll.

There is still a howling gap in the mainstream high street toy market for dolls and toys which positively reflect disability to children. Toys which tell children it’s good to be them, that give them self esteem and body confidence and something to play out their disability experiences through.

Last week a group of Mums began an online Twitter and Facebook campaign to get the toy industry to take note and produce more toys which reflect and represent disability and Deafness in a positive way.

#toylikeme

The ‘Toy Like Me’ campaign has been spearheaded by Deaf mum Melissa Mostyn, whose daughter has a disability and uses a wheelchair.

“If we are going to teach children, both with and without disabilities, positive attitudes,” says Mostyn, “We need to have visible representation in the mainstream toys that are available on the high street. Attitude towards disability starts in formative years.”

The ‘Toy Like Me’ campaign is calling on social media users to join the campaign by sharing images of toys that reflect Deafness and disability positively, toys that have been homemade or altered to give them disabilities and letters from children with disabilities calling on the toy industry to make more ‘toys like them’, with the hashtag #toylikeme.

More about the campaign can be found here – https://www.facebook.com/toylikeme

#toylikeme

The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog.

Rebecca Atkinson / The Limping Chicken / 24th April 2015

Click here to read the article online.

 

How David Cameron has betrayed people with disabilities / The Guardian

“It takes one to know one,” or so the saying goes, but when it comes to David Cameron, it’s more a case of “It takes one to belittle, humiliate and vilify one”.

When David Cameron came to power in 2010 I thought he and I had a connection; stuff in common, a sort of unspoken understanding of sorts. I wasn’t with him on privatisation or lower taxes, but both of us had a real, lived experience of disability that I thought might make us somehow birds of a vaguely similar feather. I was partially deaf and partially sighted, and he had a son, who later died, and a father with disabilities. Perhaps on some level, this shared understanding of the nuances of disability was where my red would meet his blue and merge into some sort of purple swirl of commonality. (I don’t mean Faragian purple – let’s not even bring him into this, it’s far too messy already.)

I, along with many other voters with disabilities, had expectations of Cameron. I never expected him to know what poverty feels like, what state education feels like, or what it’s like to be on a zero-hours contract, or 40 and still living at home because you can’t afford a place of your own. I never expected him to know about real issues and real people. He hails from the land of the silver spoon with plum juice running through his veins. As he himself said, “I’m not here to defend privilege, I’m here to spread it.” I never expected anything different.

But disability crosses all social strata. The roulette of genetics and chance means that anyone can have a disability, anyone can have a child with a disability. There are some things an education at Eton and big pile of money just can’t buy you.

Disability is easier with money and privilege. You take a private car everywhere, so there is no issue about having to get on the bus or the tube with a pair of wheels. You can pay for respite care, a nanny, private healthcare, someone to help clean your house and mow the lawn. You can afford to pay for private education and private physio and private everything. Life with a disability may be easier with money, but money won’t make disability go away. There are some frustrations you will never get rid of with money or medicine or privatisation. I thought Cameron would know this.

I naively expected policy from Cameron and the coalition that began with a true understanding of disability that can only come from living with it, either yourself, or through a close family member, day in, day out. Perhaps the personal should not affect the political, but our experiences surely shape our outlook in some way. I expected Cameron to have seen the nuances first-hand. To know there are good days and bad days, to know the difficulties and the achievements.

I expected him to know what it feels like to be stared at in the street for using a wheelchair or white cane, to have people give you pitying glances as you take a family stroll pushing your child with disabilities on a joyous spring day. I expected him to truly understand the additional costs incurred in raising a child with disabilities, the adaptations that have to be made across all areas of life. I expected him to lead a government that would carry on the progress we have seen since the 80s, when people like me and Cameron’s late son would frequently have been asked to leave a shop, refused entry to a restaurant, or turned down for a job with no legal recourse. “You’re a fire hazard,” they could say, “You’re putting off the other diners,” and we could do nothing except walk away with an overwhelming feeling of frustration mixed with shame.

The Tories like to tell us the economy is rising like a phoenix out of the ashes, employment is up, the deficit is down, people are getting rich on property again, at least in the south-east. They are patting themselves on the back for all this “progress” and vying for another term in office telling us there’s a “good life for all” if they win a second term. But in truth, life under the coalition has been a disappointing railroad of retrogression for people with disabilities. A great big roll back. How much further can it roll?

Under Cameron and the coalition acceptable discrimination of disabled people has been reframed from the overt exclusion from public life and employment of those pre-disability discrimination days, to discrimination by suspicion and scrutiny. In the interest of lowering the deficit and balancing the books, some of the most vulnerable in society have be framed as frauds, thieving benefits and leeching the system.

Disabled people have been vilified by this government. It has been suggested they are worthy of working for less than the minimum wage. They’ve had benefits cuts and been subjected to humiliating medical examination by incompetent private sector assessors to prove their entitlement. The Access to Work budget has been slashed at the same time as the Tories have been telling us there will be jobs for everyone. Hearing aid provision has been cut. Adult social care has been slashed. In the pipeline £12bn of welfare cuts are waiting if Cameron and co are re-elected that will hit people with disabilities the hardest.

Cameron said at the 2012 Paralympics, “When I used to push my son Ivan around in his wheelchair, I always thought that some people saw the wheelchair and not the boy.” “He gets it,” I thought. “He gets the way people with disability are looked through like a sheet of glass.” Only he didn’t. He doesn’t. He can’t see the humans for the deficit and debt. People with disabilities are just figures on the spreadsheet, books that would balance better if we all just went away.

Rebecca Atkinson / The Guardian / 15th April 2015
To read the article in full click here.