LEGO building bricks have been around for 62 years. In addition to the classic versions, popular culture sets like Star Wars, Stranger Things, Harry Potter, and Frozen are available. Several years ago, LEGO unveiled the first minifigure with a disability: a person in a wheelchair.
Now, people who wear hearing aids also have a LEGO minifigure they can relate to.
LEGO’s minifigure with a hearing aid can be found in the LEGO City Main Square (60271) set, but it may be included in other LEGO sets in the future.
When asked what prompted the minifigure with hearing loss, LEGO said they understand the importance of representation in toys. They want every one of their fans to imagine themselves as part of the action.
“We are committed to developing our LEGO City sets in a way that ensures they are representative of the world in which children are living,” LEGO says. “Therefore, we will continue to include minifigures that portray people with diverse ages, professions, genders, and characteristics.”
LEGO’s first minifigure with a disability — a boy in a wheelchair — was released in 2016.
Three years later, Mattel added three Barbie dolls with disabilities to their line of Fashionista Barbies, according to The Mighty, including two dolls who use manual wheelchairs and one with a prosthetic leg.
When it comes to hearing loss, in 2005, Build-a-Bear introduced a hearing aid accessory for its stuffed animals, thanks to the efforts of Janice Lintz, mother of a hard of hearing child and founder of Hearing Access & Innovations. She also battled Mattel, who at the time refused to add hearing aids to American Girl. Lintz was told that if they added hearing aids, they’d need to add insulin pumps.
Lottie Dolls became the first global toy brand in 2017 to release a fashion doll with a cochlear implant. Mia, a wildlife photographer, can be purchased through Amazon UK.
Earlier this year, American Girl also released a “Girl of the Year” doll, Joss Kendrick, who wears a hearing aid.
Developing toys that encourage inclusivity and accessibility has been a big topic in recent years, largely due to a viral campaign by ToyLike Me. The not-for-profit organization creates art and design projects to start playful conversations about disability, while encouraging and consulting the toy industry to better represent children with disabilities. ToyLikeMe, which was established by Rebecca Atkinson, who is partially deaf and partially sighted, also aims to educate and engage the public.
“We started our campaign for more positive representation of all disability in toys and children’s media,” a representative with ToyLikeMe says. “We made over toys to show them how it could be done. These included deaf, visually impaired, wheelchair user, etc.”
In 2015, ToyLikeMe made an image of three Duplo figures with disabilities. The image was printed onto postcards. Children were asked to write to LEGO, asking them to be made. ToyLikeMe says they also sent them to LEGO’s head of design.
View this post on Instagram
#toylikeme #representationmatters #toydiversity #LegoWithHearingAid #InclusiveToys @ndcs_uk @parentsofhearokids @britishdeafassociation @actiononhearingloss @muslimdeafuk1994 @ukdeafsport @deafawareuk Check this out! Is this the first mini-figure with a hearing aid from LEGO? We've been campaigning for this since 2015. Lego you just made a whole lot of D/deaf kids feel very included! Spotted in Set 60271, out September. Picture courtesy of Lego.
“We are really pleased that we are beginning to see more representation,” ToyLikeMe says. “We want to see characters with disabilities pop up across all children’s media, just like they pop up in real life.”
ToyLikeMe hopes that LEGO doesn’t stop here.
“[We] think the culture of disability representation is higher on their agenda now, as it should be – but not high enough!”