Clare Tawell is a mother of two, and also, an inclusive, elf-doll customizer.
Just in time for the holiday season, Tawell modifies the British-based Elves Behavin’ Badly dolls for children with disabilities.
In her Etsy shop, BrightEars, parents are able to purchase a doll that has been customized to include medical equipment, such as hearing aids, insulin pumps, cochlear implants, as well as feeding tubes — or any specific feature.
Each doll is handmade to order, according to her Etsy order, including various color options for hearing aids. Parents are even able to note where their doll’s facial difference is located.
Clare shared how she first began to modify dolls when she couldn’t find any options for her 4-year-old daughter, Matilda, who is deaf.
“I became really disheartened when I couldn’t find a doll or any toy with hearing aids,” she told Today. “It felt to me that society didn’t deem her important and therefore she shouldn’t be acknowledged.”
Clare’s goal is to normalize the conversation when it comes to diverse needs.
“We still live in a world that puts great emphasis on ‘being normal,’ so if you have a physical/visible difference you are often made to feel abnormal,” she shared.
“To a child, this can really affect their self-confidence and esteem. When they go into a toy shop and see dolls with all ‘normal’ features it only strengthens the feeling of not belonging, or feeling like the odd one out. I want to change that.”
“I would love for children in the future to be able to go into a shop and see dolls with hearing aids and cleft lips next to the regular dolls, because then it makes it normal, not different,” she continued.
“When people see these dolls, it can open up a dialogue and increase awareness and understanding of these differences.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.