For a long time, the idea of diverse dolls was pretty nonexistent. The same sort of dolls stocked shelves that often bore little (if any) resemblance to the children playing with them. But as parents demanded more representation, dolls became more inclusive with the exception of one area: disabilities. Well, a British mum of two children decided to change all that, and created a line of inclusive dolls that all kids would want to play with.
Clare Tawell decided to start Bright Ears UK, a collection of diverse dolls with disabilities, because her daughter Matilda was born deaf. “Tilly was born deaf and has worn hearing aids since she was 6 weeks old,” Tawell, a medical radiation technologist wrote on her company’s About Us page. “I thought it would be kind of cool if I could buy her a doll with hearing aids just like her, but when I searched online I found nothing.” Anger became the impetus to create a doll that looked just like her daughter. Word soon grew and BrightEars UK, a non-profit, was born.
From feeding tubes to dolls with Down’s Syndrome, Tawell lovingly crafts each doll and their respective disability by hand in her office, which is actually her dining room table. There is a collection of dolls with a Cleft Lip (£29.99, approximately $41 U.S. dollars). The Cleft is handmade to order; you can send a photo of your child so that Tawell can customize it to match exactly.
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If your child is hearing impaired, they might love playing with the Doll with Hearing Aids and/or Cochlear Implants (£24.99, approximately $34 U.S. dollars). The doll’s accessories can be customized in a wide variety of colors; for example, the hearing aids and/or cochlear implants can be made any way you wish (woot, glitter and marble is also available!)
But let’s say that your child is past the point of playing with baby dolls. Well, everything will be Disney when they get to play with the Princess Figure with Hearing Aids +/- Glasses (£21.99, approximately $30 U.S. dollars). The official Disney princess dolls (like Cinderella, Ariel, Rapunzel, etc.) are outfitted not just with fancy gowns, but with hearing aids and glasses, too.
“BrightEars grew from one hearing aid doll to a range of inclusive dolls that not only empower children but also promote inclusiveness through play,” says Tawell. “We’re not going to hide away with our ‘differences’— we’re here, we exist, we have the right to be acknowledged and we’re proud!"