Joss Kendrick is 18-inches tall. She surfs, she cheerleads, and she wears a hearing aid.
She is 2020 Girl of the Year, a doll launched by the famous Mattel firm, which just decided that the hippest thing for kids is going to be inclusion of people with disabilities.
Make no mistake. This is a breakthrough moment for awareness, and not only of hearing disability. Mattel's decision to make its star American Girl doll release of the new decade a ten-year-old surfing fanatic with a hearing aid is a sign of a shift in the collective consciousness towards embracing the rights of disabled persons. The famous doll firm would not be doing this if it wasn't sure the consumer would back its story of "an inspirational character who imparts meaningful life lessons to help girls learn and grow with confidence".
“American Girl has a rich legacy of creating timeless characters who encourage girls to reach for new heights and discover who they’re meant to be,” said Jamie Cygielman, General Manager of American Girl. “We’re proud to welcome Joss Kendrick, whose stories are sure to instill confidence and character in girls who are learning to think about the possibilities in their own lives."
This is, however, Mattel's first aventure with a disabled character. Joss's story is backed by the release of two books telling her story. The product development included consultation with a team of experts specializing in surfing, competitive cheerleading, and hearing loss, and close collaboration with 17-year-old surfing prodigy Caroline Marks, who this year aims to be part of the first-ever U.S. Women’s Olympic surfing team.
American Girl is also partnering with Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), and providing the latter with a $25,000 donation to support the organization’s education and awareness programmes. American Girl is also supporting HLAA’s 2020 Walk4Hearing scheme, now in its 15th year of supporting families across the US to encourage hearing health and living well with hearing loss. From January 1, 2020 through the end of the year, the company will collect donations for HLAA at americangirl.com and at American Girl stores nationwide.