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    What's New in Dwarfism

    6 Things Not to Do When You See Someone With Dwarfism

    As much as it annoys me when people forget to say “please” and “thank you,” today I ask people to use common courtesy when encountering someone with dwarfism or another disability. Please renounce the following common discourtesies, today and always. 1. Staring or Finger Pointing An overwhelming majority of people with dwarfism regularly experience strangers pointing fingers and piercing eyes that won’t let go their gaze. The sight of someone so short is more than they can handle politely. This unsolicited attention is not only rude, but also can discourage people from going out in public and makes us uncomfortable when we do venture out. 2. Ridiculing Recently, a Paralympic swimmer from Great Britain made headlines when he said he was “sick to death” of being laughed at on the street because of his dwarfism. When he spoke out against the ridicule he had been subjected to his whole life, he tapped into a groundswell of public support for his inclusion and respect. His experience resonates with many people of short stature engaged in the same fight. 3. Touching According to one study, one-third of people with dwarfism have been physically touched by strangers in public. We have been patted on the head for good luck, to see if we are real, or in the manner used to greet a child. Some even try to pick us up without permission. This is both discourteous and dangerous. So don’t even think about it. 4. Spacing Invading personal space is incredibly disrespectful. However, it’s not uncommon for people to discount my presence and encroach on the space immediately above my head. They might reach over my head to shake hands with someone in front of me or to get food from a buffet table beside me. The drip from a spoon passing overhead adds insult to injury. During COVID-19 restrictions, physical distancing was recommended. But it’s both obnoxious and reprehensible when the non-compliant close the gap and put those unable to be vaccinated at high risk for infection. Although restrictions have been lifted in many places, COVID is still killing people. So please step back when asked to do so. 5. Rude Comments Researchers have reported that three-quarters of people with dwarfism have been verbally abused. Names like hunchback, midget, runt, stumpy, and dolly are derogatory, demeaning, and worthy of disdain. Delete them from your list of adjectives for little people. And don’t tolerate it when your friends use such crass vocabulary. 6. Filming or Photographing The “take a picture, it lasts longer” retort to someone staring at you is risky. The person could whip out their cell phone, snap a photo, or take a video. Many people take pictures of us when they think we’re not looking. This alarming trend is exacerbated by fears that the photos will appear on social media hate sites or as trophies on personal pages. Don’t click and definitely don’t post. Thanks in advance for exercising common courtesy.

    How to Take Action Against ADA Access Violations

    Thirty years after the effective date of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on January 26, 1992, I didn’t expect to read about an accessibility nightmare. But that’s exactly what a Little Person wrote about her recent experience trying to order fast food from a McDonald’s self-serve kiosk. The menu graphics on the screen were too high for her to click on! And from there, this Facebook conversation expanded to stores’ out-of-reach point-of-sale terminals. Commenters reported a store raising the height of all their terminals when it remodeled three years ago and, when asked to lower the terminals, other stores either refused or did nothing despite agreeing to look into it. The need for a store cashier to enter the order or read the information on the checkout screen clearly did not compensate for the loss of independent use of the equipment. Instead of fuming about ongoing access denials and being unwilling to accept the status quo, group commenters shifted gears into problem-solving. Why accept what doesn’t need to be? Doesn’t the ADA mandate an accessible height for point-of-sale terminals? How do we find out the required height? Where do we get the documents to print and show store managers? Being part of this conversation was just the nudge I needed. I had long planned to write about ADA enforcement procedures for public accommodations. And here right in front of me was a group motivated to take action. I provided them with the link to the ADA Standards Adopted by the U.S. Dept. of Justice (2010) and U.S. Dept. of Transportation (2006). Armed with this document the group now knows that an accessible terminal height is no more than 48 inches (ADAAG §§308.2 forward reach, 308.3 side reach, and 309.3 height of operable parts). A suggestion to carry a tape measure to document the height of these inaccessible screens or terminals was followed by another question. Who do we contact after we measure? In other words, if operable parts on out-of-reach equipment violate the ADA by measuring more than 48 inches and stores refuse to comply, who has the authority to enforce the law? The answer lies in ADA Title III regulations 28 CFR §§36.501 to 36.503 which gives authority to both the person subjected to disability discrimination and the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ). The individual can either make an official complaint to the DOJ (see instructions here) or file a private lawsuit against the store. However, given the large volume of ADA complaints from people throughout the United States, a DOJ review can take up to three months. Alternatively, the DOJ can investigate a complaint, intervene in an individual’s private lawsuit in cases of general public importance, or initiate a compliance review. Settlement negotiations are often used to resolve disputes. In appropriate cases, the United States Attorney General may file a lawsuit in federal court and obtain civil penalties of up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for any subsequent violation. So are you ready to challenge the access violations that limit your independence? To dig deeper, you can read the ADA Accessibility Standards and ADA Title III Regulations.

    Community Voices

    End Disability as Reason to Terminate Pregnancy

    “This is one that should never have been born! whispered the Director of Nursing on August 3, 1953.” This opening line in Dwarfs Don’t Live in Doll Houses, the first memoir book in my #Dwarfism trilogy, illustrated the prevailing view of people towards babies born with disabilities, especially infants like me who were expected to die. Thankfully my birth preceded prenatal testing and a mother’s choice to terminate a pregnancy based on disability. I was born alive and successfully fought for the life God gave me.

    Fast forward 68 years and the negative attitude towards disability births persists. The difference is that today prenatal test results can alert an expectant mother of her baby’s disability in the second or third trimester. And eugenics laws allow a mother to have a late-term abortion.

    Estimates of how many pre-born children are terminated by reason of their disability range from 0.59% to 3%. Based on U.S. Center for Disease Control data of 629,898 legal induced abortions in 2019, this adds up to terminations of anywhere from 3,716 to 18,897 disabled babies per year. This many deaths for any other reason would count as a catastrophe warranting annual vigils and memorials of a 911 caliber. Instead a pre-born child celebrated at a baby shower one week is dehumanized and discarded as fetal refuse the next week.

    Nonetheless there is good news on two fronts of a prenatal disability diagnosis. First, many mothers continue their pregnancy. For example, one couple attended a Little People of America (LPA) meeting to better understand what life would be like for their pre-born son diagnosed with #Dwarfism. LPA encouraged them at the meeting and maternity hospital after their son was born.

    Second, between 2019 and 2021, several states banned abortions by reason of disability:

    Arizona, Kentucky, and Mississippi prohibited abortions because of genetic abnormality.
    Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah specifically called out #DownSyndrome (Ds) as an unlawful reason for an abortion given a U.S. abortion rate of about 67% for Ds.

    Although some courts have blocked these bans from going into effect, the final outcome could depend on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization expected in or about June 2022.

    Hailed as the most important abortion case in 30 years, Dobbs gives SCOTUS the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) which preclude a state’s interference with a woman’s choice to have an abortion prior to viability (about 24 weeks). The State of Mississippi law prohibiting abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy, except in cases of medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality, is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. When lower courts in Dobbs found the Mississippi law unconstitutional, SCOTUS accepted Mississippi’s petition for review.

    So what can we do to preserve the lives of pre-born babies with a disability? Pray that SCOTUS justices will have the courage to ban abortions by reason of disability!

    For information on subscribing to my weekly blog and ordering books in my #Dwarfism trilogy, go to angelamuirvanetten.com.

    Breaking the 'Reach Barrier' for People With Dwarfism and Disabilities

    Characterized as the biggest state and local building code change in 20 years, October 8, 1997 is a date few know to commemorate. This is when the ICC/ANSI A117.1 Committee on Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities broke the six-inch reach barrier. Lowering the standard from 54 to 48 inches in new or altered buildings and facilities made ATMs, gas pumps, elevators — everything activated with a push, pull or turn — accessible to people with dwarfism and half a million others whose disability involves a reach limitation. Little People of America proposed the change in 1994 after becoming a committee member in the consumer category as one of 10 disability organizations requiring accessibility. Other categories include building owners and operators, producers/distributors of manufactured products, professional organizations, regulatory agencies, and building code officials. As the delegate representing LPA, I learned the committee had no appetite for our proposed changes. But after a vigorous debate in February 1996, the committee agreed to place 48 inches in the second draft revision of the ANSI Access Code — the key word being draft. In the fall of 1996 and spring of 1997, the Committee considered public comments and negative ballots filed on the draft. The American Bankers Association and manufacturers of gas pumps and vending machines joined the Building Owners and Manufacturer’s Association in opposition to the 48-inch change. Given the size and economic power of these opponents, a David and Goliath battle was imminent. It seemed there was no hope for change. Experienced disability advocates were concerned that our early victory of getting 48 inches into the draft was about to slip away. Delegates were under a lot of pressure to change their early votes in support of the change. But I used my arsenal of weapons: preparation, persuasion, and prayer. And I believed God could move the hearts of committee members to retain 48 inches. After a five-hour battle, the room was quiet as the votes were carefully counted: 18 for 48 inches, 13 in favor of 54 inches, and seven abstentions. Victory. I attributed the triumph to divine intervention. How else do you explain the force that withstood three of the most powerful industries in the nation — banking, oil, and retail? In a surprising move, the committee met again in October 1997. Once again I had to argue for lowering the reach standard from 54 to 48 inches. I didn’t think I could handle going through another battle. In my anguish, I called Robert to put this on our church prayer chain. God was faithful, and the committee chairperson limited the debate to a recap of the main issues and only allowed the clock to run for one hour. After the fifth and final debate on LPA’s proposal, the victory was more decisive — 22 votes for 48 inches, eight votes in favor of 54 inches, and only two abstentions. Many little people have said they think of me every time they use an ATM, but I think of God’s grace, power, and justice. I believe He deserves the credit for making the impossible happen. This post was dedicated to Marilyn Golden, former Senior Policy Analyst for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. Marilyn was LPA’s strongest ally on the Committee and used her legendary advocacy skills to garner support for LPA’s 48-inch proposal. I’ll be forever indebted to Marilyn for taking me under her wing to understand the process, know who to trust, and lead by example.

    Bree O'Boyle

    Why Dating Is Hard as a Lesbian With a Disability

    To some this sounds like a crime I am being charged with, and honestly, sometimes it feels like one. I am a 30-year-old lesbian woman with dwarfism who relies on a wheelchair part-time. However, society only sees me as a woman in a wheelchair and that is the end of it. Therefore, I am not supposed to be attracted to anyone or seen as attractive. It’s almost a sin to be disabled and to want to be in a relationship with someone who isn’t. As a disabled person on dating apps, I rarely get swiped right on, and when I do, it is usually one of four situations. They are way too into my disability, they are a couple looking for a unicorn, so they swipe right on literally everyone hoping to find someone, or they are someone who swiped out of sheer curiosity to ask me some absurd question about my disability they would never ask in person. However, since they are on a dating app and never have to see me face to face, it’s somehow OK. As a person with a disability, according to the media, I am supposed to be so busy being an inspiration to able-bodied people, or being so positive about my life, or my absolute favorite, being so depressed and hating that I’m disabled so much that I don’t have time or need for a life partner. However, I am not asexual and I am not aromantic. Yes, those are valid identities, but that is not who I am. I am a sexual, romantic person, and yes, I happen to be in a wheelchair part-time. The media portrays people with disabilities as some sort of ethereal beings who don’t need to find love or companionship, when and if they represent us at all. It irks me SO much that according to any movie I am too pathetic or disabled to love. The old saying goes, “There are plenty of fish in the sea.” So, most people have an “ocean” to choose a potential date from, but those are straight able-bodied people. LGBTQIA+ people don’t usually have “oceans” but generally instead “seas” of people to choose from. When you’re disabled, that “ocean” turns into a “puddle” if you’re lucky, and by lucky, I mean heterosexual. If you are disabled and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, well that “puddle” turns into a raindrop on the sidewalk of life. Honestly, how many people do you know who can fit in a raindrop? Because I don’t know any, and that is just the beginning of your issues when you’re dating with a disability and queer. I’m 30 years old and I’ve honestly never been hit on by someone. In my almost 31 years on this planet, I’ve only dated one person. After almost six years together, the problem of being “too disabled” reared its ugly head. I’ve now been single for almost four years now and struggling to even find someone to look past my disability long enough to make it to the first date. Dating while disabled and queer is hard. That’s for sure. So, the next time you see someone who’s visibly disabled, don’t pity them, especially if you think you might hit it off with them. Try looking beyond their disability and get to know the person behind the disability. Who knows, you just might find love!

    GLAAD Report Finds Greater Need for Disability Representation on TV

    A new report by GLAAD found that the number of series regular characters with disabilities counted on primetime broadcast TV decreased, down to 2.8% (22 of 775) from a record high of 3.5% last year and 3.1% the year before. The number of characters counted also fell, from 27 to 22. Since Variety VIP+ reports that Americans spent 4.6 hours a day watching video on streaming services and traditional TV in 2021, this representation is vitally important to how people see – or do not see – disabled individuals in society. “Including a disabled character does not happen by accident,” said Lauren Appelbaum, RespectAbility’s VP of Communications and Entertainment and News Media. “Inclusion of disabled people must be an intentional effort. What we see on screen influences how we act in real life. Thus, when studios make the decision to include individuals with disabilities, they are helping to remove the stigmas that currently exist about interacting with us.” As stated in the report, “This number falls far below the actual number of those with disabilities in the United States,” as more than 20 percent of people in the U.S. have a disability. While the numbers in this report are abysmally low, it is important to note that the GLAAD report is based on self-reporting by the networks and content providers. “While the reported numbers have gone down, it also is likely these numbers are underreported, possibly because the industry is not tracking disability internally as much as other demographics,” added Appelbaum. “Even so, the representation of disabled characters on our screens is nowhere near representative of disabled individuals in society today.” Examining the Numbers in the Report GLAAD’s 2021-2022 Where We Are on TV Report includes the only analysis of primetime scripted series regulars on broadcast networks of characters with disabilities. Largely known for tracking the number of LGBTQ+ characters on broadcast and cable networks, as well as streaming services, the Where We Are on TV Report also tracks racial, gender, and disability inclusion on television. GLAAD looked at 775 series regular characters expected to appear on scripted broadcast primetime programming broadcast on ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, and NBC. Counts are based on original scripted series premiering or which are expected to premiere a new season in primetime between June 1, 2021 and May 31, 2022, and for which casting has been announced or confirmed by networks. The report finds that NBC once again leads the broadcast networks in representing disabled characters, counting 14 regular characters (10% of the network’s series regulars) who have a disability this season. However, this is a sharp decrease from last year’s high of characters. Many of these characters are played by actors without the disabilities the character has. One authentically cast character among the 14 characters counted is Izzy Harris (played by Zyra Gorecki, an amputee) on “Le Brea,” which also has been renewed for next year. While the report includes a recurring gay character on “Ordinary Joe” who is living with HIV, the report does not include series regular John Gluck, a 13-year-old actor who plays the lead character’s son. Gluck, who is a wheelchair user, has muscular dystrophy in real life, and his character is a wheelchair user in the series. The lack of inclusion of Gluck points to the reality that studios may not have known enough to share all its disabled characters with GLAAD for inclusion in this report. The report includes four series regular disabled characters from ABC, while the CW has two. However, none of these actors have the disabilities their characters represent. While CBS and FOX each reported just one regular character with a disability, both of these characters are cast authentically: CBS’s “NCIS: Los Angeles'” Hetty Lange (played by Linda Hunt) has dwarfism and Christopher Diaz (played by Gavin McHugh) on FOX’s “9-1-1” has cerebral palsy. There is an increased representation of characters with nonvisible disabilities, including addiction, anxiety, cancer, depression, diabetes, learning disabilities, and PTSD. For example, ABC’s “The Rookie” adds another dimension to the character of Officer Tim Bradford (Eric Winter), a highly regarded police officer, when viewers learn he has a learning disability. This casual inclusion of disability helps viewers understand that this is a common disability and helps lessen the stigma around having a learning disability and seeking assistance in learning in different ways (in this case, an audiobook). Spotlight on Cable and Streaming The report also looks at LGBTQ+ characters with a disability on cable and found five (4 percent), a decrease from eight characters and 7 percent. These include two characters who are amputees (AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and Showtime’s “Yellowjackets”), but neither of these actors are amputees themselves. In addition, Sam from Freeform’s “Single Drunk Female”and Rue on HBO’s “Euphoria” both have addiction. One character on cable to highlight is Maribel from Showtime’s “The L Word: Generation Q,” who has muscular dystrophy. It is important to note that Maribel was authentically cast, and is played by Jillian Mercado. Also on Showtime, but not included in this report’s count, is “Dexter: New Blood,” which featured bilateral above knee amputee Katy Sullivan as Ester. Also worth noting is that one of “Dexter: New Blood’s” writers was Marc Muszynski, a writer with low vision. The report also finds five disabled LGBTQ+ characters in streaming originals, which is up from one last year. However, while the report tracks LGBTQ+ regular and recurring characters on scripted original series on Amazon, Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Paramount+, and Peacock, it does not yet track those with disabilities that are not also LGBTQ+. No other report tracks this data either. According to Variety VIP+, streaming now accounts for more than half (51.5%) of all original series in the U.S., up from 12.9% in 2016. “While broadcast TV remains far behind in disability representation, there is a lot more disability-inclusive content to see on streamers, which are not yet tracked in any formal report,” said Tatiana Lee, RespectAbility’s Senior Associate for Entertainment Media. “Anecdotally speaking, streamers are more likely to cast authentically as well.” Several examples include Disney+’s “Hawkeye,” which includes a deaf character, Maya, authentically played by Deaf actress Alaqua Cox, as well as Clint Barton (Hawkeye) as a Hard of Hearing character; HBO Max’s “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” which features Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, who was diagnosed with ALS when she was 14 years old; and Netflix’s “YOU,” which cast Ben Mehl, who has low vision, to play blind character Dante. Increasing Disability Inclusion in Television Leads to Real-Life Results With Hollywood striving to boost diversity and inclusion, opening the inclusion umbrella for America’s largest minority – the one-in-four Americans with a disability – is the right thing to do as well as economically smart given that the disability market is valued at more than $1 trillion. Gail Williamson is a talent agent for Kazarian/Measures/Ruskin and Associates (KMR), leading their Diversity Department, seeking out the right roles for talented actors with disabilities. KMR’s clients include Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, as mentioned above. “While the report shows a decrease in series regular roles for characters with disabilities, I believe with more platforms and diversified content, the number of working actors with disabilities has greatly increased,” Williamson said. “From my experience, I predict the number of actors with disabilities playing series regular roles will increase in the coming seasons. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment that is not measured is the number of recurring, supporting and co-star roles that are now being cast with actors with disabilities. In the past, actors with disabilities were usually only invited into the casting office for roles when a lead character had a disability and that disability moved the story forward. Today we get calls at KMR for talent with disabilities to play smaller roles that have nothing to do with their disability. We are finally starting to see ‘full inclusion’ as it is in life. This also gives the actor with a disability the opportunity to grow in their craft as all other actors do, coming up the ranks, rather than just getting looked at for lead roles, that they are sometimes not prepared for since they haven’t had the supporting role experience. We are definitely making progress.” People with disabilities lack adequate access to healthcare, education, and employment opportunities. Depictions of disability should be focused on the abilities and contributions of people with disabilities, not just the disability. Additionally, even simple inclusion in crowd scenes is important. This is especially critical for the 22 million working-age Americans with disabilities, of which only one-in-three has a job. Diversity and inclusion processes that include disability are needed inside networks and studios so authentic portrayals become natural and consistent. A Lab for entertainment professionals with disabilities is aiming to do just that. Organized by the nonprofit RespectAbility, the 2019, 2020, and 2021 Labs already have helped place more than 30 alumni into jobs at studios that hosted the group, including Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and The Walt Disney Company. Others have found work in writers’ rooms for Netflix’s “Mech Cadet,” CW’s “4400,” and Showtime’s “Dexter,” among others, while several have had films featured at festivals such as SXSW and participated in additional career track programs including with Film Independent and Sundance Institute. “Progress toward authentic disability representation on the screen begins behind the camera,” said RespectAbility board member Delbert Whetter, a veteran film executive and producer who is deaf. “Only by including people with disabilities in the spaces where creative and business decisions are made, will we begin to see concrete results on screen. We’ve noticed a perceptible uptick of studio interest and enthusiasm for disability representation, which makes it all the more essential that the right tools and authentic points of view are available to creators, writers and producers who can benefit from them.” The entire report may be downloaded from GLAAD’s website.

    Community Voices

    Have you felt as though you were not taken seriously?

    #Dwarfism . I don’t know where this comes from and I don’t know how valid my feeling is, but I often feel as though I am not taken seriously. The feeling is kind of like a feeling is expressed then someone pats you on the head and sends you on your way without even paying attention to what you have said. Can anyone relate?

    4 people are talking about this
    Emily Kranking

    Why Disney’s Seven Dwarves Switch-Up Should Make Us Grumpy

    Let me start off by saying what everyone knows about me: I love Disney. I worked at Walt Disney World, for God’s sake! My ultimate dream is to voice their first disabled Disney Princess. As a Disability Studies grad student, I just applied for the Diversity & Inclusion internship at Walt Disney Animation Studios, which is also my dream place to work at! But, when the live-action division of Walt Disney Studios isn’t diverse or inclusive to my fellow disabled actors, I need to throw caution in the air and risk my chances for the fellowship by writing this. Apologizes to the WDAS recruitment team in advance! Last Monday, “Game of Thrones” actor Peter Dinklage, who is a little person with achondroplasia, shared his concern for Disney’s upcoming “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” live-action adaption. Dinklage said on the WTF with Marc Marson podcast, “You’re progressive in one way [Casting a Latina actress for its princess] but then you’re still making that…backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave together.” He adds that he’s still open to the movie. “Progressive spin? Let’s do it. Yeah. All in. But I just don’t know…the dwarf community is tired of this shit.” A day later, Disney followed up with, “To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community.” This statement made me thrilled because it sounded like Disney actually does care about the disability and dwarfism communities. However, any hope that I had with this movie dropped like a bomb when popular movie website The Wrap leaked within seconds that Disney is officially cutting the dwarves. “Disney will fill the void with a group of what they describe as ‘magical creatures,’ according to casting sheets…” the movie site reported. “They are currently looking for voice actors to give these creatures personality.” If I wasn’t caught up with a family emergency when I read the news, I would have thrown my cell phone across the room in absolute rage. My disability is cerebral palsy, so I can’t speak for the dwarfism community. But, as a disabled actress who would love to be represented by Disney, I feel absolute pain from this. It makes it worse that Disney erased cerebral palsy from a real-life character in Christopher Robin (their 2018 live-action take on Winnie the Pooh). Aside from anger, my other biggest feeling about Disney’s statement is confusion. “We have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community.” How in the world was the conclusion to remove the dwarves from the movie? How did the logic become, “To remove the ableism from the movie, we will remove the disability from the movie?” Who were these members of the dwarfism community who you were working with? Is Disney talking to disability organizations like Little People of America? A whole organization is much more effective than one person at a time. It makes me truly happy that Disney is progressive with its casting in race and ethnicity. Rachel Zegler, who made a big splash into Hollywood as Maria in Spielberg’s adaption of “West Side Story,” is going to make the Latino community proud as Snow White (And need I say, Disney casting a real lyric soprano was the greatest shock in the world. Disney actually resisted celebrity casting to keep Adriana Caselotti’s legacy intact!). For the upcoming “Peter and Wendy,” newcomer Alexander Molony and Disney/ABC star Yara Shahidi — a Native New Zealander and an African American actress — are the titular hero and the Disney icon Tinker Bell. And I don’t think we need to go on about fellow Black actress and rising pop star Halle Bailey’s highly-anticipated take on the Little Mermaid herself. But diversity and inclusion aren’t just race and ethnicity. It is different disabilities and bodies, as well! My real concern and suspicions are the possible real reason why Disney doesn’t want the dwarves in the film: Star casting. Actual disability representation will stand in the way with Tom Hanks as Doc, Lewis Black as Grumpy, and Leonardo DiCaprio as Sneezy, you know? “We need to have big box office names to make money and to keep Mommy and Daddy interested,” says Hollywood. Was Disney’s conversation with the dwarfism community actually about casting big names as dwarves? If Disney has to cast voice-over actors for the dwarfs or “magical creatures,” that’s a big red flag. I’m praying that Disney is seeing little people for these “voiceover” roles to make up for it. Don’t get me wrong: If these “magical creatures” are what the dwarfism community wants, then we need to support this decision. Dinklage’s opinion is absolutely not wrong and not out of nowhere either. The story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is controversial to the dwarfism community, due to problematic stereotypes and bullying. Scholars Erin Pritchard and Robert Kruse write, “A person with dwarfism is rarely represented as an ordinary human being, but rather a mischievous being — happy to be ridiculed and laughed at rather than with.” It should be noted that the general response of Twitter to Dinklage’s comments was comparisons to Grumpy. Disability advocate Rebecca Cokley tweeted on her life experiences in bullying, “…You HAVEN’T lived until you leave your office to frat boys drunkenly imitating your walk at a bar as you walk by, chanting ‘Heigh-Ho! Heigh-Ho!’” Despite this, the reactions that I have seen on this movie from the dwarfism community are generally either cast little people in the movie as the Dwarfs and have them come to the writer’s room, or do not do this movie if you’re not going to get proper consultation.  Actress Kiruna Stamell agrees with Dinklage’s opinion, but still pitches, “The seven dwarfs could live in a house that is only accessible to people 4ft 2in tall. With an adapted kitchen and adapted vehicles. So, all the average height people in their world are forced to bend over for 40% of the film, sit in little chairs and stoop to use the stove…and the perils of bad ergonomic design are really and truly explored.” Comedian Brad Williams adds, “Make Snow White end up with one of the dwarfs, how about that? I mean, they have jobs, you know? They got good friends. They got a house. They like to protect her. They’re diamond miners, so they’re rich. They’re self-made, wealthy…come on, how about you end up with the dwarfs, and you have a progressive Snow White, and everybody’s happy.” As a past consultant myself, these are the responses that I expect from my peers, not the suggestions to take away acting opportunities from their peers.  Additionally, while talking about the new creatures with me, Cokley remarked, “By removing the dwarves, Disney is absolving itself of doing any actual learning or making things better. The opportunity to apologize, build developed characters of substance informed by the community, and demonstrate actual leadership in Hollywood is how justice actually happens. The dwarfism community is done being grateful for being patted on the head.” On a brighter note, there is one victory in the disability-casting progress: One of “Peter and Wendy’s Lost Boys,” Noah Matthews Matofsky, has Down syndrome! It is going to be spectacular to watch people with Down syndrome see themselves in a Disney movie. It is frustrating to see while Disney is taking one step forward with Noah and Peter Pan, they’re planning on taking seven giant steps back with Snow White. Special thanks to Rebecca Cokley, Stephanie Farfan, Nicole D’Angelo, Keely Cat-Wells, Marissa Erickson, and Matthew Josephs.

    Community Voices

    Thanks and Wishes for Peace and Joy

    I am thankful for The Mighty—for all of you. Your authenticity, courage, and support comfort me in being authentic too and have helped me to be more patient with and kinder to myself.

    I wish everyone the comfort of peace and joy in your hearts.

    Community Voices