Sign Language Barbie

Barbie Was an ASL Teacher

Sign Language Barbie
Sign Language Barbie.

Not many people know about it, but there was a Sign Language Barbie doll sold exclusively by Toys R Us. Mattel added this doll to the Barbie line as part of its efforts to diversify Barbie, and following its success with "Share a Smile Becky" and "Paralympic Becky," the doll using a wheelchair.

According to news reports, the new Sign Language Barbie doll sold very well, even selling out in some places.

This Barbie was a teacher of sign language, coming with sign language accessories such as stickers depicting words in sign language. The National Center on Deafness assisted the toy company in developing the doll.

This doll was expected to be a boost to the self esteem of young deaf and hard of hearing girls (and boys too). The idea was that now they would have a doll just like them. Plus, hearing children who bought or played with the doll would learn basic sign language and develop more awareness and acceptance of deafness.

There is some irony in the fact that Mattel came out with Sign Language Barbie in 2000 when three years earlier, I had written a classic feature, "Barbie's Deaf Friends." In that feature, I wrote about an entire imaginary line of deaf Barbie dolls using different methods of communication. There was a cueing Barbie, a signing Barbie, and a cochlear implantee Barbie. When that article came out, I received emails from parents who thought that they could actually buy these dolls!

Today, the Sign Language Barbie (or ASL Barbie) is hard to find as a collectible item.

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