We’re standing here, teeny weeny toy ‘cap in hand’ to ask you to chuck in yer change, wave us yer wonga, to help us make the toy box a better place for 150 million disabled children.
#ToyLikeMe would like to raise funds to take us to the next level, grow our organisation and develop, design and run a website - an online hub - and turn our viral social media campaign into a lasting online resource which will celebrate disability in toys, advise parents and carers looking for representative toys and continue consulting and calling on the global toy industry to include disabled children in the cultural mainstream. We want to keep our work going to make real change, but we need your help!
Our Story - in the beginning
#ToyLikeMe® was established in April 2015 after UK journalist Rebecca Atkinson noticed the lack of disability representation in toys. Rebecca had spent nearly 20 years working in TV production and print journalism (including Children’s BBC) and had always been interested in the way these industries represent disabled people, but this was the first time she had noticed the lack of representation in the toy industry. She called on some fellow mothers, and with their help, launched #ToyLikeMe on Facebook and Twitter to call on the global toy industry to start representing the 150 million disabled children worldwide. Read the full story in a Guardian newspaper article here.
We began making over toys to give them disabilities and asking other parents to do the same. The results soon when viral and our story was shared on news outlets around the world, including The Guardian, Mail, Metro, Yahoo, Distractify, Upworthy, Al Jeezera.
We appeared on radio in Australia, Singapore, Italy, UK, Canada. We were covered by news TV including CNN, Fox News, BBC, Channel 5, Sky TV and many more...we've lost count! We'd kinda stuck a match under a firework factory and it went boom.
Here we are on BBC Breakfast -
We spotted a company in the UK who make bespoke dolls using 3D printing. We contacted them and asked if they would produce hearing aids and a white cane for their dolls. To our delight they said yes and within two weeks they produced the world's first 3D printed dolls with disabilities in reponse to #ToyLikeMe. We were so happy we fell off our toy box, and so did a lot of other kids and big kids!
Then we gave some Playmobil figures some waggy-tailed guide dogs and whizzy wheelchairs and started a change.org petition asking Playmobil to produce the figures for real. 50k people signed within a week and lovely folk at Playmobil said yes! They are currently developing products inspired by #ToyLikeMe for release in 2016/17. Whoopeee!
Next up we started a peition calling on Lego which has been signed by over 20k people. Sadly Lego didn't respond so we launched a wheelchair Father Christmas design on the Lego Ideas platform where fans can vote for designs they would like to see made a reality. We're still waiting for Lego to come out and play!
What started out as a little bean of an idea has grown up, up and away into a more giagantic beast than we ever imagined. We’ve had to put our paid work on hold to nurture the #ToyLikeMe giant and grow it into something that we hope will have a lasting impact on the industry. Fee fi fo fum! Boy, we've had some fun! We now have over 30k followers in 45 countries and every week more people join our 'toy box revolution'. We've even had support from comedy genius Stephen Merchant and Gruffelo author, Julia Donaldson!
Why do we need a website when we already have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?
We scour the internet and dig deep in toy boxes the world over looking for toy products which represent disability to share with our followers. They do exist, but they can be hard to find and often are sourced from companies overseas.
On this journey we've kind of become experts in disabled toys. Every day we are contacted by parents looking for toys which will represent a particular disability to their children.
Whilst our facebook feed is a wealth of information, it is hard to search through, so information and resources get lost in the passage of time. Because we are committed to making kids feel good about themselves, we answer every email that comes our way, it's time consuming and would be so much better if we could direct parents to an easy to search website where they could find all the informtion they needed to create a toy box bursting with positive represenation for their child.
We want to collate everything we have learnt on this playful journey in one place so that parents and carers can find the information they need straight away and not have to wait for us to find time to respond to their emails. We've bought the domain toylikeme.co.uk, all we now is the funds to set it up.
What is out there now?
There is scant resources for anyone looking for disabled toys at present. It's a case of googling, and searching Amazon for random products and hoping you might stumble across something that represents the particulr condition you are looking for. It's all quite hit and miss. We want to make it easy for parents and carers and give them a one stop shop where they can find everything from cottage insdustries making bespoke plush teddies with hearing aids to listings of global toy brands with representative products.
How will we fund the website running costs in the future?
Once our website is up and running we hope to start to earn some small income to support the ongoing running costs of #ToyLikeMe though website advertising and click-through commission sales of toys from Amazon which have come via our website.
How is #ToyLikeMe currently funded?
To date, #ToyLikeMe has not received any income, and this is where we come to you with our teeny weeny toy ‘cap in hand’ to ask for your help to raise the funds to carry on our work and build a website where we can create a celebratory resource for parents, carers, teachers, toy companies and children alike.
We've built a #ToyLikeMe community, now we need that community to help build us a website!
If you would like more information about our plans and ideas read on -
Why do we need representation of disability in toys?
For disabled children growing up being the only one in your class or school to use a wheelchair or a hearing aids and never seeing children like you in books, TV, films and games can lead to a sense of isolation and low self esteem. To see yourself reflected by huge toy brands like Playmobil and Lego is about more than just a toy. It's about these brands saying that you are worth it, that everyone should be included and celebrated, not just able bodied children. But #ToyLikeMe doesn't advocate that toy companies should make disabled toys for disabled children per se. What we believe is that ALL children will benefit from incidental disability being positively included in toys. If we create a more inclusive toy box, then perhaps we can educate by stealth and help change attitudes in the real world too.
What will the website contain?
The website will contain -
- Information about why ALL children need to see incidental representation of disability in the toy box.
- Information about why 150 million disabled children need to see themselves and their experiences positively reflected in the toys they play with to grow up with positive self esteem.
- Information about existing products and brands which include positive disability in the mainstream toy industry – here we can share all we have learnt and help parents source hard to find items. We won’t be selling, just telling.
- Information about kitchen table businesses around the world who currently create bespoke toys for disabled children.
- Industry advice and creative disability consultancy for toy brands wishing to include positive disability representation in their products, including disablity steotypes and how to avoid them.
- Information about our upcoming ‘Loved by #ToyLikeMe’ brand endorsement programme.
- House user generatated content and unboxing videos.
- Educational resources for teachers wishing to cover #ToyLikeMe in their lessons. We've already made a Pearson's A-Level textbook so we know teachers are interested in the debate raised by #ToyLikeMe.
Why are we asking for financial support?
#ToyLikeMe receives no funding and to date has been run voluntarily but unfortunately we cannot afford to self fund this project ourselves any longer and desperately need to employ some professional support to create a viable website. We've called in hundreds of favours from friends and business contacts in the 9 months since establishing #ToyLikeMe but now we have come to a bit of a cross roads. If we are going to carry on, we need to pull our heads out of the toy box and get some real funding behind us to build on what we've already created and keep it going to change the toy box for disabled children today and those yet to be born. We can't change disability, we don't want to, but we can change the world these kids are born into.
Phew! Are you still reading? Thank you for staying with us. That was a long ol' story. We hope you can help our fairy tale dreams come true!