21. Sign language is introduced
In 1972, Sesame Street introduced Linda the Librarian. Both the character and the actress who played her are deaf. She taught viewers about sign language and raised awareness about issues that deaf people face on a daily basis. Linda was part of the show for 30 years. A book about sign language featuring her and Sesame Street characters can still be found for sale.
22. A character with a genetic disorder is introduced
Sesame Street introduced a character with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder affecting the bones, in 1993. The 9-year-old Tarah appeared on the show until 2001. She needed a wheelchair to move around but that never stopped or slowed her down. She even performed in a wheelchair ballet.
23. The first HIV-positive Muppet
Despite advances in treatment and increased awareness about how to prevent it, South Africa is still the country with the biggest HIV epidemic. More than 7 million people are living with the condition. In 2002, the South African Sesame Street introduced Kami, a 5-year-old HIV-positive Muppet, as a way to deal with the ignorance, prejudice, and fear surrounding the illness. The name Kami is short for “kamogelo, which means acceptance. She still appears in episodes to help reduce stigma surrounding AIDS in the region.
24. An Arab-Israeli Muppet
Sesame Street was not afraid to address the decades-long conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. The Israeli version of the show, Rechov Sumsum, introduced in 2006 the first Arab-Israeli Muppet called Mahboub. He spoke both Arabic and Hebrew. He has also made appearances in the American co-production of the series. His role would often be to be the intermediary between kids and the Muppets, showing that people can be friends despite their differences.
25. Sesame Street tackles women’s rights in Afghanistan
Sesame Street’s co-production in the war-torn country has been airing since 2011. The first Afghan Muppet, Zari, was introduced five years later, addressing the issue of women’s rights. Zari loves to go to school and play cricket. Her role is to be a positive role model for girls in the country, by showing everyone that it’s OK for girls to be educated as well as play sports and pursue a career.