Will we one day see costumed characters with disabilities at Disneyland? That could eventually happen if a new petition drive is successful. In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a San Francisco family is calling on Disney Animation Studios to represent children with disabilities in their animated films.
"Disney has done such a great job inspiring children, generation after generation, to be good people," says Keston Ott-Dahl, an author, activist, and mother of Delaney Skye, who was born with Down syndrome. "They are in a unique position to directly change the way future generations and societies view people with Down syndrome."
After Keston's wife Andrea Ott-Dahl agreed to be a surrogate for two friends, another lesbian couple, an exam revealed the baby had Down syndrome. The couple wanted Andrea to get an abortion because doctors said the baby would most likely die from cystic hygroma, a birth defect. But Andrea had had an abortion in the past and had reservations about ending another pregnancy. Keston and Andrea decided to keep the baby and raise her on their own. Delaney, who was born in July 2013, did not have cystic hygroma but she did have Down syndrome.
She now enjoys watching animated films, but Keston says, "It breaks my heart to watch Delaney mesmerized by these Disney princesses and other characters knowing she has no role models that are like her." She notes the only representation of a character with disabilities in a Disney animated film was the titular The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was released 18 years ago.
Through the Facebook page, the Ott-Dahls say they are being contacted by other parents of children with disabilities, and that those folks have joined their crusade.
"It's perfect timing, since October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month," says Andrea Ott-Dahl. "We are seeing an increase of characters with Down syndrome on syndicated television shows. We hope Disney gets on board."