Sesame Street Unveils Ameera, Muppet Girl In Wheelchair To Inspire Disabled Kids
By Mikelle Leow, 01 Apr 2022
Video screenshots via Sesame Street
When you think of Sesame Street, you might envision a place where everyone’s singing and dancing without a care in the world, and nothing ever goes wrong.
This is a utopian land that’s far from the realities of many kids in real life, and over the years, the long-running children’s series has set out to rewrite its stories so younger viewers would find a character or experience they can connect with.
The newest muppet on the block is Ameera, an eight-year-old green puppet who has a spinal cord injury and now gets around with a wheelchair or crutches.
In spite of physical restrictions, Ameera continues to play basketball, one of her favorite sports. Being passionate about science, she’s also possibly one of the smartest kids in the neighborhood.
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Ameera is witty and inquisitive, according to Sesame Workshop, Sesame Street’s educational nonprofit. “She’s everyone’s favorite comedian, and her great sense of humor serves her well as a natural leader who encourages others with her bright personality,” it adds. “Sometimes, Ameera gets too wrapped up in her own ideas and forgets to notice everyone else’s, but she always remembers that play and learning are most fun when she includes her friends’ ideas too.”
Sesame Workshop endeavors to provide early childhood education to kids affected by global crises. As such, Ameera will first appear on Ahlan Simsim (or Welcome Sesame), the Middle Eastern and North African edition of the show.
On a broader scale, Ameera will serve as a character that 240 million children with disabilities worldwide can look up to, in addition to encouraging young girls to get into STEM careers. And although she is not a refugee, she will shed light on the everyday experiences of displaced children, including Rohingya Sesame Street muppets Noor and Aziz.
Ameera’s character came to life with the help of inclusivity and disability advisors from the Middle East and the US, as reported by Mashable. Among them are occupational therapists, inclusive early educational experts, disability technical specialists, and people with disabilities.
Sesame Street also took great care to depict her posture in a way that accurately reflects a real eight-year-old with a spinal cord injury, consulting experts to give her the appropriate movements and mannerisms.
Her original portrayal will be performed by Leen Sarsak, a first-time puppeteer and young mother from Amman, Jordan. Ameera’s compassionate nature is channeled from Sarsak’s own observations from a region that has seen a barrage of conflict. And in an animated version for English-language viewers, Ameera will be voiced by Ashley Glicken, a young woman with disabilities.
Scott Cameron, the executive producer of international social impact at Sesame Workshop, also tells Fast Company that the stories of Ameera and other characters will be translated into the Ukrainian language to reach out to children who have been forced to leave the country due to the conflict with Russia.
“Thoughtfully designed to challenge stereotypes and reflect children’s lived experiences, Ameera brings visibility to the more than 12 million displaced persons and 240 million children worldwide estimated to have a disability as well as to the important role of girls in STEM,” shares Sherrie Westin, President of Sesame Workshop. “At a time when more children than ever before are affected by conflict and displacement, Ameera also highlights the urgent need for creative and flexible approaches to delivering playful learning and early education to communities affected by crisis.”
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