Hot Wheels is expanding representation for kids who use wheelchairs – with the company’s first-ever remote-controlled wheelchair toy.
The toy was created in collaboration with five-time Wheelchair Motocross World Champion and Paralympic athlete Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham. Fotheringham, who was born with spina bifida and has been a full-time wheelchair user since the age of eight, is known for performing elaborate tricks and back flips in his wheelchair.
The toy, available by toymaker Mattel on Amazon, was crafted to mimic Fotheringham’s custom-built wheelchair and features a built-in action figure made to look like him, a remote control, and a ramp so users can perform tricks like he does.
For Fotheringham, the collaboration is a dream come true. “Growing up, I didn’t have anything like this,” the athlete told CNN. At the toy’s launch event, he saw children, including wheelchair users, “having fun” playing with the toy. “You could kind of see their faces light up,” he said.
The toy “really gives you that freedom of imagination.”
Fotheringham’s wheelchair motocross career started with a visit to the skate park when he was just 8 years old. His brother suggested that he try dropping into the skate ramp on his wheelchair. After a few failed attempts, he finally succeeded.
“Then I abandoned everything else and became obsessed with the skate park,” he said.
“What I enjoyed about going to the skate park, and what I still enjoy, is you can be as creative as you want,” Fotheringham added. “You’re never really bored. If you’re bored you’re not progressing.”
The athlete says that he “couldn’t even believe it” when Hot Wheels approached him for the partnership. “For Hot Wheels to want to do my chair was the biggest compliment ever,” he said.
He hopes that the toy helps shift public perception of wheelchairs, showing that a medical device can also be fun and adventurous. “I think the (remote-controlled toy) is awesome because it really brings a positive, fun light to something that otherwise people make way too serious.”
Gerry Cody, director of product design for Hot Wheels RC and Innovation at Mattel, said he hopes the toy will inspire children to push past perceived limitations.
“We’re excited for our latest collaboration with Aaron ‘Wheelz’ Fotheringham and introduction of our first-ever Hot Wheels R/C wheelchair toy, reinforcing our goal to inspire kids to break boundaries and pursue their dreams no matter what personal challenges they may face,” Cody said in a statement shared with CNN.
“We worked closely with Aaron to ensure this product was an accurate representation of his wheelchair, and a fun toy to play with. We can’t wait to see all the stories that come with a first-ever, one-of-a-kind toy like this.”