Hello friends, I hope everyone had a good holiday season so far. My family has. We took our kids to the American Girl store in NYC this past week. My two girls were, of course, amazed with all the AG accessories, clothes and dolls. The store was alive with lots of little girls (and maybe a few big girls) lovingly carrying their dolls around. It is rather exciting to be there. There's the salon, the big display cases with these beautiful dolls of all ethnicities and ALL the accessories that can go with them. We passed by the display of the AG dolls with disabilities and much to the credit of AG, they were just as beautiful as their "non-disabled" counterparts. They have lovely dolls with no hair, dolls that use a wheelchair, girls with hearing aids (one ear or bilateral--the owner's choice) and lastly the doll with the service dog. I smiled at the lovely dolls and at the environment they were in. There are big girl empowering quotes on the walls---encouraging girls to be their best selves, be true to who they are, be kind. I loved it. Except for one thing---where's the doll for the blind girl?
Like I mentioned, they have a doll with a service dog. I am making sure that I am calling it a service dog because it can't be a guide dog for the blind. I am sure someone, who is well-meaning, thinks this is for a blind girl. But it is not. Guide dogs are not given to eight year old girls. White canes are.
Side note story: I was commenting on this to my husband (okay, I was a little loud as I voiced my opinion of the missing white cane doll…) when the well-meaning manager came up to me, as helpful as ever, and indicated to me that they had AG dolls with hearing aids. Hearing aids. Now to any vision professional that comment is no surprise. It's the first question we are asked when we say we teach kids who are BLIND ("Oh, you must know sign language!" followed by the next comment, "That must be VERY rewarding."). Telling me that they had an AG doll with hearing aids is like me asking for chocolate chip ice cream and getting a duck. It is not the same thing.
Back to my post---why the fuss over the white cane? Why can't we just give our girls a service dog? Is this even a big deal? Well, it is not a big deal but it can be significant. How many of us know the AG age group girls who have significant vision impairments and struggle with feeling "apart of the mainstream crowd"? The girls who are not fans of the mobility lessons or sticking out from their friends? The white cane means something. It is not just a white cane. It is a tool of independence. Many of our kids struggle with accepting it. BUT how great would it be if there was more positive love to the white cane? ….say maybe an extremely popular line of dolls like the American Girl line? AG's site and store is filled with tackling issues of self-discovery, acceptance, empowerment, etc. They need to know that having a white cane doll would help a lot of girls be part of something that is "cool". That the white cane doll could help with acceptance and removing the stigma that the white cane is to be dreaded. Besides, they make snow shoes, braces, earrings, and every other imaginable accessory for the AG dolls, how hard would it be to make a white cane? Wouldn't it be cool if there was a story? Maybe one of the other girls (like Saige--I know them by name now) had a friend who read Braille?
Here's what I did today: I called AG and gave them my feedback for the white cane accessory. I also emailed them. It took 5 minutes. I don't know how many AG developers are going to read (or care) about my feedback but it's worth a shot. I made sure that I explained the fact that the AG demographic age receives white canes not service dogs. Most of our girls will never get a guide dog. I further stated that the white cane has significance to a girl with a significant vision impairment especially when paired with the AG line. It would mean something to them. I don't exactly know if I am changing the world by suggesting the white cane accessory or if any of you agree with me. But if you do, would you please email and call American Girl? Let's see if we can help change the perception of blind people and make it so that the white cane is the accessory that most blind girls can't live without? Wink, wink!