Mattel – Share a Smile™ Becky®


A subtle, complicated and thorny dynamic exists between disability rights leaders and organizations of parents of kids with disabilities. Mattel had already chosen to partner with the National Parent Network on Disabilities (NPND) and didn’t know which grass-roots national disability organizations with which to collaborate.  Mattel wanted to produce a Washington, DC event, but didn’t have the contacts, network or market insights to make it a success, nor expertise to frame the story from a disability-savvy perspective.  Accessibility and compliance with Title III of the ADA (public accommodations) in Toys “R” Us stores was an unknown variable, but needed to be trouble shot with the anticipated influx of customers with disabilities. Plus Toys “R” Us chose an inadvertently offensive “Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids!” name to disability rights activists.

Agency Insights

Launch of Mattel’s Share-A-Smile™ Becky® in its diversity brand (With Christy, Barbie’s African American friend and Theresa, Barbie’s Hispanic friend) had the potential to be an unprecedented role model for millions of kids with (and without) disabilities – however the “Share-A-Smile” brand name with the disability community carried an inadvertent condescending nuance by its very name.

EIN SOF pointed out that the timing of the launch coincided with the Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and lent itself to pitching mainstream and disability press stories about mainstream play, equity in the classroom and equity on the playground.  Since Toys “R” Us was the exclusive retailer of Becky and it was unclear as to store-specific accessibility, EIN SOF in conjunction with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) developed an “Quick Tips” guide for customers with disabilities that Mattel distributed to Toys “R” Us.


EIN SOF was hired to design, produce and promote a high-profile Washington, DC accessible event with national disability leaders, kids with disabilities, Mattel and Toys “R” Us executives, and press. EIN SOF designed a promotional tie-in with the Reauthorization of IDEA to generate press and awareness among kids with (and without) disabilities, educators, retailers, and families.

Squire presented a Becky doll to President Clinton and Judith Heumann, then-Assistant Secretary of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) at the IDEA Reauthorization ceremony in Washington, DC. Because the Barbie Dream House® was not wheelchair accessible (which resulted in negative press and a feature segment by NBC Dateline reporter John Hockenberry), EIN SOF recommended the creator of the Universal Design concept, Ron Mace to review the House, and make accessibility recommendations.  The campaign was so successful, that EIN SOF worked on Becky several brand extension campaigns listed below, and was hired by Toys “R” Us to fortify its database of baby and child models with disabilities for use in specialty and mainstream print and electronic advertising, and to secure Marlee Matlin and kids with disabilities on the cover of the Toy Guide.

Invitation to launch of Mattel’s Share-a-Smile Becky in Washington, DC. Picture of Becky doll in her wheelchair with other diversity dolls.

Invitation to launch of Mattel’s Share-a-Smile Becky in Washington, DC. Picture of Becky doll in her wheelchair with other diversity dolls.


EIN SOF exceeded expectations of Mattel and Toys “R” Us that had exclusive retail rights for Share-A-Smile™ Becky® as the doll was sold out in just two weeks;

EIN SOF produced the DC event at VSArts Gallery with Mattel and Toys “R” Us executives, disability leaders and press, resulting in 500 news hits around the world: The Japan Times, London Times, Associated Press, National Public Radio, CNN, Good Morning America, Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report, Newsweek, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and hundreds of disability print and electronic press;

EIN SOF and DREDF created a “Quick Tips” Disability Guide for Retailers with ideas to attract the emerging disability market segment including placing Becky on lower shelves, clearing wide isles and check out with lowered counters, disability etiquette and tips on disability-savvy language – all designed to “weave an accessible welcome mat” for these new customers.

Becky® Brand extension included:

  • Becky, I’m The School Photographer;
  • Sign Language “I Love You” Becky;
  • Paralympic Becky;
  • Bumby Slide/Golden Books with Becky, entitled Barbie: The New Counselor.
  • Detective Barbie CD Rom featuring Becky solving crimes on her lap top computer.

Then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala used the inaccessible Dream House situation in her speech at an International Disabled Women’s Conference about Denied Access to the American Dream (House) for Women with Disabilities.