North Syracuse woman who helped create a Barbie with Down syndrome to receive national award

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Kayla McKeon, a Cicero-North Syracuse and OCC graduate, is in the spotlight once again.

McKeon helped to design a Mattel Barbie doll to represent people like herself, who have Down syndrome.

“Wow, Barbie approached us. I was so blown away by the fact that they did. And it’s a great idea, especially on their part because it shows the world what Down syndrome is and what it looks like,” McKeon told NewsChannel 9 in 2023.

The doll is part of the Barbie Fashionista collection, an inclusive line that has Barbies in wheelchairs and with prosthetics.

McKeon’s doll has almond-shaped eyes, smaller ears and a flat nasal bridge.

Courtesy of OCC.

Her accomplishments will be honored in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 9.

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) will present McKeon with the National Outstanding Alumni Award at its annual conference.

During her 12-year time at OCC, she became the first lobbyist in U.S. history with Down syndrome, leading an effort to pass legislation in Congress that aids people with disabilities; and was named the National Down Syndrome’s Self-Advocate of the Year, according to OCC.

“My time at Onondaga Community College was remarkable and is something I will always be thankful for. I was fortunate to receive any assistance I needed from the Office of Accessibility Resources, advisors, tutors, and professors. Everything I learned guided me in my career to enhance and advocate for the Differently-abled community. I am incredibly blessed to be the recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award for 2024, and am thankful to Dr. Warren Hilton for nominating me,” said McKeon.

McKeon is OCC’s 6th such honoree in 11 years.

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