Health

Family asks Disney to represent disabled characters in its films

Delaney Ott-Dahl has Down Syndrome. Her parents launched an online petition asking Disney to include characters with Down Syndrome and other disabilities in its films.
Delaney Ott-Dahl has Down Syndrome. Her parents launched an online petition asking Disney to include characters with Down Syndrome and other disabilities in its films.
Adrian Florido/KPCC
Delaney Ott-Dahl has Down Syndrome. Her parents launched an online petition asking Disney to include characters with Down Syndrome and other disabilities in its films.
Clockwise from top left: Keston and Andrea Ott-Dahl, with their children Delaney, Julianna and Jared.
Adrian Florido


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A San Francisco Bay-area family delivered a petition to Disney’s Burbank studios Wednesday asking the company to represent children with Down Syndrome and other disabilities in its films.

Andrea Ott-Dahl and her wife Keston got more than 75,000 signatures on the petition, which they launched online last month. They said their goal is to enlist Disney in the fight against discrimination faced by people with disabilities.

People like their 16-month-old daughter Delaney, who has Down Syndrome.

Andrea Ott-Dahl said the couple got the idea after a conversation with their six-year-old daughter Julianna. They saw her crying while watching her favorite Disney movie, Frozen, which is about two sisters who are princesses.

"And so we asked her what was the matter," Ott-Dahl recalled. Julianna said she was sad because Delaney could never be a princess because "there’s no princesses with Down Syndrome.’"

So the Ott-Dahls launched the petition in early October to coincide with Down Syndrome Awareness Month. On Wednesday, the family brought it to Disney Studios’ front gates. The sisters were dressed as their favorite princesses, Elsa and Cinderella, when a Disney staff member came out to accept the petition.

Andrea Ott-Dahl said she hoped the petition might encourage Disney to create a character with a disability within the next few years.

"That would be a really great way to end discrimination before it even begins," Andrea Ott-Dahl said. "So children could grow up with a familiarity of people that are different than them."

Disney has not responded publicly, but the Ott-Dahls said that they had earlier gotten an email from the company saying it is committed to creating characters that all children can relate to.