Disney Responds to Mother’s Petition to Create Disabled Characters

Disney Responds to Mother’s Petition to Create Disabled Characters

Disney responded this week to the mother of a child with Down syndrome who had petitioned the studio to include more disabled characters in its films.

On November 26, Keston Ott-Dahl hand-delivered a petition signed by more than 75,000 people to a representative at the company’s Burbank headquarters with her three children in tow, including 17-month-old Delaney, who has Down Syndrome.

“There’s no princesses like Delaney,” Ott-Dahl told the San Jose Mercury News in November. “If you watch, the princes and princesses are the most handsome and beautiful people on the planet.”

Now, Disney has responded to the petition. However, according to the Contra Costa Times, the company’s response was “noncommittal.”

“The Disney brand has always been inclusive,” said Paul Roeder, senior vice president of global communications. “We constantly strive… to share compelling storylines from our studios and media networks that… reflect the incredibly rich diversity of the human experience.”

Disney remains “committed to continuing to create characters that are accessible and relatable to all children,” Roeder added.

Ott-Dahl told the Mercury News in November that she had initially been afraid of people with disabilities, as she had had little to no experience with them. 

“I felt that people with Down Syndrome were a real-life inspiration for monster movies,” Ott-Dahl said. “They scared me. They talk differently, they’re friendly, and they touch you. I was a true ‘ableist.'”

That changed about two years ago, after the child her partner Andrea Ott-Dahl was carrying in surrogacy for another couple was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, and the would-be parents pressed for an abortion. Instead, Keston and her partner decided to raise their “little warrior from heaven” themselves.

While Disney’s response was hardly what she was looking for, Ott-Dahl told the Times that she was pleased to receive any acknowledgement from the company at all, and remains optimistic that her request will eventually be honored, or at least considered.

“And if not, I’ll keep on ’em,” she said.