Melissa Shang of Paoli, Pennsylvania, doesn’t let a little thing like having a disability keep her down — and she wants others girls to have that, too! That’s why the spunky 10-year-old started a petition asking the American Girl Doll company to represent people like her.
In a Youtube video, Melissa explains why she started her Change.org petition, asking the doll manufacturer to select a disabled girl to feature as the Doll of the Year. “Disabled girls are American Girls, too,” Melissa explains, adding, “We face challenges every day.”
Indeed, Melissa has faced major challenges after being born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disorder. Weak and numb muscles are a side effect of the disorder, and Melissa needs a wheelchair to get around.
Although American Girl does sell doll wheelchairs, Melissa wants a doll with a whole disabled story, similar to their other featured dolls. “For once, I don't want to be invisible or a side character that the main American Girl has to help,” she says. “I want other girls to know what it's like to be me, through a disabled American Girl's story."
With her older sister’s help, Melissa created the petition which features the video asking American Girl to feature the 2015 Doll of the Year in a wheelchair. The company responded with the following statement:
“We appreciate the enthusiasm and trust our fans have in us to create products and stories that speak to diversity and inclusion, and we applaud Melissa Shang for her amazing spirit and positive attitude...We receive hundreds of passionate requests to create a variety of dolls and books based on a wide range of circumstances, and we are always considering new ways to enhance our product lines.”
Time will tell if Melissa’s petition will work, but one thing’s for sure, she’s a real-life American girl who’s truly inspiring.
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