For the first time, LEGO has debuted a minifig in a wheelchair at the Nuremberg and London toy fairs. The sweatshirt-wearing character and his service dog—a part of the City Park series called "60134 Fun in the Park"—were spotted by the Promobricks blog, who shared the image on the Bricksfans website. Understandably, the new development has caused quite a stir among LEGO enthusiasts.
There are a wide array of LEGO minifigs on the market today, including skeletons, elves, and robots. But some fans argue that even with all that variety in species, there has been a serious lack of diversity among the brand's human characters. Last year, the #ToyLikeMe campaign started a petition on Change.org, lobbying for disabled figures. It garnered more than 20,000 signatures.
“The brand continues to exclude 150 million disabled children worldwide by failing to positively represent them in its products," campaign co-founder Rebecca Atkinson wrote in an essay for The Guardian. "This is more than just about sales figures or disability access, it’s about changing cultural perceptions. It’s about brands such as LEGO using their vast power of influence to positive effect.”
LEGO eventually released a wheelchair for their subline product, Duplo, in a series of community people in 2015, but the senior citizen character left many advocates underwhelmed. "We applaud Lego for producing a wheelchair-using Duplo figure," Atkinson said in a press release. "But it’s so disappointing that the only wheelchair using figure across all LEGO products is an elderly person being pushed along by a younger figure. What does this say to children about disability?"
In response, Trisha McDonell, LEGO Education's global public relations manager, explained:
We are always excited to introduce new accessories, such as the new LEGO DUPLO wheelchair, to further children’s constructive role play and learning opportunities. The beauty of the LEGO system is that children may choose how to use the pieces we offer to build their own stories. In this case, any LEGO figure can be placed in the wheelchair.
But it seems that the company took that feedback into account when they created the new scene, which also features a bike rider, an ice cream vendor, and picnickers.
[h/t: The Guardian]