A few days ago, LEGO released what could be its first person with disability minifigure. It was spotted by Promobricks at the Nuremberg, Germany and London toy fairs, photos of which were posted on their blog site and shared with the website. The first ever minifigure on a wheelchair is part of the newest set, LEGO City Fun in the Park (60134) City People Pack, and also includes an ice-cream vendor, cyclist, and picnickers and a host of other minifigs in a new park scene. The said PWD minifig depicts a young, cool guy donning a beanie and a hoodie together with his companion dog.
It caused quite a stir across social media because as we said, it’s a first for a LEGO – and a good one to. The sighting of this new minifigure is significant since the company has been bombarded recently with accusations for its lack of diversity, and stereotyping. LEGO in fact received a barrage of criticism from educators and activists, for releasing an elderly minifig with a wheelchair as part of the Duplo line which caters to toddlers and preschool aged children. According to its critics, the introduction of such figures in a toy system intended for very young kids reinforces the stereotypical image of elderly people as unproductive members of the larger society.
Now with the introduction of its first ever, wheel-chair riding minifigures in LEGO City Fun in the Park (60134), The LEGO Group might receive its needed PR boost. #ToyLikeMe co-founder Rebecca Atkinson, which spearheaded a petition at Change.org, managed to gather 20,000 signatures which lobbied Lego to include people with disabilities minifigures in its sets. This could be a second milestone with regards to the issue of sensitivity and diversity among toy manufacturers, the first being with Mattel’s releasing of new body types for the world’s most famous doll, Barbie.
According to a written statement by Atkinson, “The whole issue came as a bit of a shock to me, because you can get tons of LEGO superhero figures, pretty much any kind you want. And there are disabled superheroes! But I looked it up. They do not have official LEGO Professor X figs or Barbara Gordon/Oracle figs. They don’t even have Stephen Hawking!” Though as the brick company claims, the LEGO system offers endless possibilities in coming up with figures that can be customized by any child to approximate his environment, it is the company’s official acknowledgment that activists were seeking.
The #ToyLikeMe organizers took this as a very positive gesture, and joyfully wrote on their campaign page, “We’ve got genuine tears of joy right now … LEGO has just rocked our brick-built world!”
“It’s pretty momentous, even though it’s just a little toy. It’s about the message behind it, which is far, far bigger than a little one-inch-tall plastic guy.”, Atkinson said.
LEGO will begin to offer this unique minifig through their LEGO City Fun in the Park (60134) City People Pack beginning July of this year. For now, check out this video from Promobricks regarding set 60134 as they spotted this during the Nuremberg Toy Fair. The featured image above is courtesy of Promobricks.