Nickolay Lamm has designed a wheelchair that is compatible with Barbie and other dolls to fill a void in the toy market after Mattel discontinued its own wheelchair Barbie doll in 1997.
“I feel that the more representative toys are of the real world around us, the better chance we stand at creating a healthier, more down-to-earth perception for youth,” Lamm tells PEOPLE. “If a physically disabled child could see a fashion doll rolling around in her own wheelchair, if kids classified as mobility-disabled by the world could be exposed early on to this sort of positive imagery associated with ableism, then maybe we could shake some of the stigma that surrounds disability and being in a wheelchair.”
Lamm — who is currently raising funds on Kickstarter to put his prototype into production — tested out his wheelchair toy by bringing it to the Ayita Dance Studio in Texas, which provides dance lessons for children in wheelchairs.
“The kids responded really positively to the chair,” says Lamm. “They put different dolls in the wheelchair and just played! When I saw the kids at Ayita playing with the chair, I experienced one of those wonderfully gratifying moments that reminded me of why I started Lammily in the first place.”
Lamm hopes to have the wheelchair available for purchase soon to help change the landscape of the toy market.
“If a wheelchair accessory was as commonplace as a dress in the doll aisle, it would be a huge step in helping physically disabled kids feel more empowered in a stigmatized society that often overlooks disability,” he says. “Moreover, I feel it could educate non-disabled children about their peers, and promote open discourse and learning.”