Did You Know? CSUN Inspired a Special Barbie Doll

In the late 1990s, creators at Mattel decided it was time to make a Barbie doll devoted to the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Who better to advise the El Segundo-based toymaker than the staff at CSUN’s NCOD (National Center on Deafness)?

Photo of ASL Barbie doll in pink packaging.

Photo courtesy of The Strong National Museum of Play. Rochester, New York.

Los Angeles Times article published in June 2000 reported that NCOD consultants and Mattel considered a Barbie with two hearing aids, but decided that Barbie as American Sign Language (ASL) teacher would appeal to a broader audience. The doll came with a whiteboard and reuseable stickers showing how to sign certain words. Barbie is signing “I love you.”

According to the article, Mattel reported “skyrocketing” sales when the doll was released — it was very popular among collectors. Mattel released two versions of “Sign Language Barbie,” one Black and one white.

The now-defunct Toys R Us chain originally sold “Sign Language Barbie” exclusively — and if you have one, you might want to hold onto it. These days, prices on eBay range around $50-$125.

The NCOD has provided services to Deaf and hard-of-hearing students as well as CSUN faculty and staff since 1964. Their services include a student orientation program, interpreting and transcription, academic advisement and tutoring.

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