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Every day, I work alongside my colleagues towards greater levels of inclusion for talent with disabilities. In my workplace, people refer to me as Becky. Being a little person helps me bring a diverse perspective to the job and it’s just a part of who I am.
Growing up with dwarfism, I’m only one of 30,000 people with dwarfism living in the United States. The day I was born was the first time that my parents were in a hospital room with a dwarf or little person. Previously, they only saw little people in movies, on television, and in the circus. Since 80% of dwarfs are born to average height parents, this is a common situation for most new parents of little people. This means that they’re faced with extreme fear. Will their child be able to lead a fulfilling and independent life? Will they be able to handle potential judging, bullying, and teasing almost every single day in public? This experience also raises the question of adoption. I’ve heard of situations where the hospital staff members even recommend for new parents of newborns with dwarfism to consider putting their baby up for adoption. Their decisions are based solely on previous exposure through what they see in the media. If they saw something positive, they’re most likely going to feel encouraged and if they saw something negative, they feel discouraged.
We continue to see more and more little people characters, scripted and non-scripted, both positive and negative perceptions, in movies and on television. Sometimes average height actors portray little people characters, with the use of CGI to adjust their height. I agree that every person should have an equal opportunity to compete for each and every job that they truly believe they’re qualified for, however we need to get to a place where all auditions and roles are open to average height people and people of short stature. In most cases, the average height actors who are playing little people have never previously met a little person. Therefore, their portrayal is not likely going to be as authentic. It’s important to consult little people, for educational purposes, in order for the actors portraying them to get to know the human side that can be portrayed.
In addition, any entertainment activities portrayed in the media, such as dwarf tossing, are not encouraged. This then leads people to believe that it’s acceptable. Imagine if you’re a new parent and your child can only aspire to be tossed across a bar for the amusement of others and potential brain damage? Everyone is encouraged to think before they act and treat others the way that they would want to be treated in return.
Strive for authenticity. It’s important to me and truly affects how I’m treated in society. If you see a little person in public, take the chance to get to know them. Ask questions and don’t make assumptions. Your perceptions will change for the better. After all, you could be a future parent or family member of a child with dwarfism. We’re human just like everyone else.