Black History Month: The Leeds mum creating diverse disabled dolls inspired by her daughter
Report by Amelia Beckett
When eight year old Amira went toy shopping "realistic features" were something she struggled to find.
"It was while on a shopping trip that Amira said 'Mummy why do all the dolls look the same, why do none of them look me and you, why are there no disabled dolls' and I said that's just how it is", said her mum Olivia.
Amira is mixed raced and autistic and felt representing different races within disability was completely ignored within children's toys.
"It was heartbreaking hearing Amira ask me the same question I asked my mum 30 years ago. Why in 2019 and onwards are we having this problem?"
So, rather than accept it, Olivia decided to do something about it.
"I found there were people doing black dolls, but they weren't a range of diverse dolls and I thought I know what these dolls need. I know what I want in them I know what other people would want from them...why can't I do it?"
Olivia spent lockdown crowdfunding and enrolling in business courses to help develop a prototype until finally, Bessie was born.
"She's called Bessie because she's named after Bessie Coleman, who was the first black female aviation pilot. So the concept between every doll they will be based on a historical figure that will educate children."
Education is the reason Jumoke Abdullahi co-founded the Triple Cripples after becoming so frustrated by a lack of representation.
But thanks to Olivia's perseverance, thousands of children like Jumoke and Amira no longer have that battle. The prototype is now set for manufacture, with orders from toy shops already arriving.
And Amira has been lucky enough to be the first to experience her.
"I hugged her so much when she made her and I said wow I thought you weren't actully going to do it but she actually did"
Bessie will soon be on our shelves, but with plenty more ideas in progress, Olivia's hoping she will be the first of many.