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)?
A 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.