See the new Lego set that has disability advocates cheering

Lego Will Release Its First Mini-Figure That Uses a WheelchairFrom mythical characters such as a werewolf or vampire, to more realistic ones, such as a cheerleader waving her pom-poms or a female scientist, Lego minifigures have long been a staple of kid toy boxes and a hot property among adult collectors. But out of the hundreds of small, one and one half-inch tall plastic figures produced by Lego over the years, none have reflected the experience of the 150 million disabled kids around the world.

Now a series of photos from this week's Nuremberg Toy Fair confirms that this lack of representation is changing. According to pictures posted Tuesday by German Lego fan website Promobricks, one of the new mini-figures being released in 2016 is a character in a wheelchair with an assistance dog. The character was first hinted at during the London Toy Fair last weekend, according to the blog Bricks Fans. Now this visual evidence at the fair in Germany has parents and disability advocates celebrating.

RELATED: Watch How Legos Can Transform the Lives of Kids With Disabilities

"We've got genuine tears of joy right now," wrote London mother and journalist Rebecca Atkinson in an update on Tuesday to the petition to Lego she started last April. "LEGO we salute you! You've just made a 150 million children, their mums, dad, nans, grandads, teachers, carers, pet dogs and hamsters very VERY VERY happy! We're conga-ing up and down the street right now, (the hamster is at the back) flinging multi coloured bricks like confetti!" she continued.

Atkinson's "Toy Like Me" petition to Lego, which asked the manufacturer to "positively represent disability" garnered just over 20,000 signatures—and its language seems to have influenced the toy maker. "Please, Lego, put some wheelchair vroom vroom into the toy box and help generations of kids, (both with and without disabilities), grow up with a more positive attitude to human difference!" Atkinson wrote last summer on the petition.

Along with the beanie-wearing minifigure in the wheelchair, set 60134 Fun in the Park also seems to challenge gender stereotypes by featuring a bearded man pushing a baby buggy, and a woman pushing a lawn mower. The inclusion of these figures comes on the heels of criticism of Lego by disability advocates last summer and its seeming resistance to expanding the diversity of mini-figures.

In June Lego apologized after a backlash from mental health and disability advocates because of a kid's toy it described as a "part back-of-the-bus window-licker." The derogatory phrasing is slang for a person with severe learning disabilities. One month later in July, the toy company was criticized after it released a character in its Duplo Community People Set, which is geared toward preschoolers, of an old man in a wheelchair.

In an op-ed published Dec. 22 in The Guardian, Atkinson explained that the Duplo character promoted "an enduring assumption that disability is the preserve of the elderly despite there being 770,000 disabled children in the UK alone." Atkinson added that Lego had responded to her "Toys Like Me" petition by stating that "The beauty of the Lego system is that children may choose how to use the pieces we offer to build their own stories."

When parents will be able to purchase this minifigure set for their kids is still unclear, and Lego did not return a request for comment. But if Atkinson's reaction is any indication, this set is sure to bring plenty of cheer to children who've been waiting to play wheelchair basketball with a minifigure.

Here's more information on the original 'toy like me' petition:
Why a Toymaker Is Creating Dolls With Disabilities
Related stories on TakePart:
Ai Weiwei Claims Freedom of Speech Victory in Battle Over Legos
It's Kind of Crazy How Long Lego Trash Has Been Washing Up on These Beaches
Lego-Inspired Homes Could Be the Future of Disaster Relief

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