I can’t say that I have ever been a great Barbie doll enthusiast but I certainly applaud the makers of both Barbie and American Girl dolls for looking to include children with a wide range of disabilities. Both now offer a bald doll for children with cancer who may have lost their hair as a result of chemotherapy, American Girl offer doll hearing aids and wheel chairs – and now a doll’s ‘allergen lunch box complete with medical bracelet and fake allergen shot’. For many children, being able to share their disability with a favourite doll must surely make it seem not only less onerous but almost a privilege.
Yes, OK, no doubt it is also both a good marketing wheeze and a ‘nice little earner’ for the doll makers – but since most of the world runs on profit rather than philanthropy if you can make a good and helpful intervention pay in terms of either cash or kudos, then it stand a great deal better chance of staying around than if you cannot. For example, although ‘freefrom’ food is now a profitable, although still small, sector for most of the supermarkets, in the early days I am sure that a major driver for keeping it in store was its PR potential in showing the supermarkets as concerned about, and caring for, their customers with dietary problems.
Moral – if you want a socially helpful intervention to be successful, try to ensure that in some way or other, even if not in monetary terms, it ‘pays’!