After actively looking for opportunities to make Disneyland more inclusive, the theme park added two dolls in wheelchairs to their “It’s a Small World” ride. The addition of the dolls in their wheelchairs participating alongside their non-disabled peers is an early effort when it comes to disability representation at the park, but hopefully one of many that will make Disneyland “truly representative of the largest minority group in the world.”
Making the dolls authentic
The most important part of this project is the detail that was put into creating these additions, which were successful due to the feedback given by accessibility experts. During this two-year-long project, Disney creatives reached out to the accessibility team of the park to ensure that the dolls would be authentic. The team—led by Erin Quintanilla, manager of accessibility for the Disneyland Resort—said that this was a historic moment and wanted to make sure the look was authentic, down to the angle of the dolls' feet on the wheelchair footplates.
"We wanted to make sure that it was a person in a wheelchair who was independently moving through life. So we didn't want the wheelchair to feel like a hospital style wheelchair. You'll notice in the design, it's beautifully created to align with a Mary Blair style," said Quintanilla.
By collaborating with people with disabilities to make this addition in their theme park, Disney has put special attention in details that make the difference.
"But there are details of the wheelchair like having a push rim so that the doll would be able to move through the story in a way that I move through the world. So it's pretty special to have those details be accurate," Quintanilla said.
"I feel seen. I feel represented. It's a monumental moment to have my community be in an attraction and represented," said Quintanilla, who uses a wheelchair. "I teared up when I saw them in the attraction."
There’s still a lot more to do
There are many iterations of this ride throughout Disney’s theme parks, which differ in layout, so Disney aims to create new versions of the dolls that are specifically designed with each verison in mind, so that they are well aligned with the rest of the dolls.
Disney hopes to have created and added these dolls to "It's a Small World" in Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris sometime next year.
However, this change alone is not nearly enough to make Disney parks fully inclusive. Details like these are long overdue. If pop culture, parks, and the entertainment industry overall want to be truly representative of people with disabilities, many changes like the addition of these dolls have to be made. We hope and would love to see children and adults with various abilities being consistently represented throughout theme parks.