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.
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.
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.
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.
This story originally appeared on Angela’s blog.