Mom made special dolls for her disabled daughter so she doesn’t feel left out
Diversity is what makes life worth living. Some of us are born short; others, tall; others, with a disability. Finding more diversity in people can help us understand ourselves and others better. That’s why Clare Tawell, a creative English mother, decided to make dolls with internal hearing aids like those worn by her daughter who was born deaf and to whom she wanted to give a friend that share that special trait with her.
Now I’ve Seen Everything spoke with Clare, creator of BrightEars, an ingenious initiative that offers toys and accessories designed for children with hearing, visual and other disabilities.
Clare began the search for a toy that represented her daughter.
No store sold or made dolls that looked like Tilly. This really bothered Clare, as the lack of interest in creating toys for children with a disability was a way of ignoring them.
“It was as if she didn’t matter because she didn’t conform to what society considers ’normal,’ so why bother acknowledging her,” she told us.
Clare couldn’t just wait for someone else to come to market with the toy she and her 4-year-old daughter needed. That’s how she designed her first doll. “It was a little ragged around the edges! But this little doll had the same hearing aids as Tilly. When Tilly saw it she completely fell in love with it,” she recalled.
More people asked for dolls for their children.
Shortly after her first doll came out, moms of other little ones asked her if she could make one for them. Clare, who works as a radiation technologist, said yes and began using her spare time to modify dolls and sell them to those families who felt the same way she did.
The name she gave her online store, “BrightEars,” came about because she and Tilly adorn her hearing aids with prints from unicorns or dinosaurs. “Her devices are purposely designed to be colorful and eye-catching, essentially. They are part of her and I don’t want her to be ashamed of them or feel like she has to hide them. She is proudly deaf,” he added.
To make diversity visible is to value it
Over time, Clare’s store and project grew from having a doll with braces to a range of dolls that not only empower children, but also promote inclusion through play. She explains that bullying often stems from ignorance and only through knowledge can it be overcome. “We are not going to hide with our ’differences’, we have a right to be recognized and we are proud!”
Clare continues to work from her dining room table, which is basically her business. So far she has made about 3,000 dolls.
While her business has grown, her main goal remains the same as when she started as a hobby: “To shout out loud that we are not going to hide with our ’differences’, that we are here, we exist, we have a right to be recognized and we are proud!”.
What other dolls would you suggest Clare create? How do you think these kinds of initiatives could help little ones with disabilities?