“About a year ago, I had an idea to set up a company and to create a whole brand representing and embracing disability and illness in childhood, and so Buttons & Bubbles was formed. I wish I could say I was amazed at the sheer lack of characters and toys on the market that don’t display any disability or illness, sadly I wasn’t. Although some brands have launched some toys there wasn’t an obvious brand on the market for families with illness and disability. You go into your toy store of choice and generally you’re confronted with wall to wall neurotypical characters. I badly felt this needed to change, so I got a very talented illustrator who designed a whole bunch of characters that depicted various disabilities and illnesses. The premise from then was to create toys and educational resources. Giving families, ‘representation through imagination and play.’
We then had 11 characters, all of them have names but we were left with a dilemma, should we name the disabilities or illnesses? As a company we are not a fan of ‘labelling’ so we decided against naming any illness or disability and keep things more fluid. This is our ethos as a company but we understand why some families may prefer to have ‘labels’. By designing the amount of characters we have without assigning ‘labels’, we hope to portray a wide range of disabilities and illnesses that children with many different conditions will connect with. We are acutely aware that not all disabilities are visible and there are tens of thousands of conditions and we can never depict them all.
Having been born with a disability myself we acknowledge that having a child with illness and disability is often heart-breaking and one of the most challenging things families ever face. So our focus is to try and take the ‘spotlight’ off the conditions, raise awareness of disability in a general sense and embrace that everybody on this planet is different and unique. We have shown this throughout our products by each character having a unique ‘rainbow puddle.’ Our rainbow puddles also give representation and support to our NHS.
Now we had our characters completed, we decided that a great way to spread representation, inclusion and spread awareness was by getting our products into schools, pre-schools and the NHS. We are now at the beginning of achieving this aim as well as selling to the public through Etsy and Instagram. Our products are made specifically geared towards children with special needs, they are also aimed at siblings and families as a whole and the wider public. Siblings will often play with neurotypical toys but they rarely play with a toy that has characters that ‘look’ similar to their own brother or sister. Likewise families don’t have access to toys that represent their family. Crucially we want our products to bring about education and awareness in the wider public arena.
We have developed a number of products which are available to purchase including (not exhaustive list) stickers, snap cards, posters, downloadable character packs and colouring books. We are looking to create new resources and toys all the time and be as innovative as possible so please let us know ideas and feedback. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have the support of Cerebra, who’ve been extremely generous with their ongoing support and who do such wonderful work themselves. We are very excited for the future and where it takes us.
Founder, Buttons and Bubbles
Here are some of the characters that Lottie has created: