Out in the Open

'We're just short': It's not the average-sized world, it's other people who can make a person feel small

For Allan Redford, president of Little People of Canada, it isn’t the fact that he needs poles to poke high light switches or help to reach groceries on the top shelf that can leave him feeling alienated, it’s the way people sometimes treat him.
Allan Redford says "Children will point, they'll stare, they'll use the m-word [...] some will cry, some will be scared." (Courtesy of Allan Redford)

Allan Redford doesn't feel alienated by the world around him, a world that's tailored to average-sized people.

Allan, who is president of Little People of Canada, has dwarfism; he's just under four feet tall.

"It's true that people with dwarfism grow up and live in a world not necessarily built for their stature [...] but we made adaptations, accommodations  —  stools, reachers and clamps, poles to poke things to turn them on, light switches and things like that, and you make it work."

He says that even today, when he does groceries, he often has to wait for someone to come by to get things from the top shelf.

However, it's not high light switches or unreachable groceries that have made Allan, at times, feel like a stranger in his own land — it's people.

"There are many people of visual difference out there or in the minority and sometimes the majority can make them feel like a stranger."

He says children, who tend to have no filter, tend to be the most overt.

"Children will point, they'll stare, they'll use the m-word — which is pretty offensive to most of us — they'll say 'look mommy', they'll laugh, some will cry, some will be scared."

Allan admits it can sometimes be hurtful, but he also sees these moments as an opportunity. "My response to that is to reach out to them, say 'hello', introduce myself and let them know I'm a real person."

"Often I will get thank-yous from the parents because [...] that's how we're teaching the world about who we are and we're really not that much different than everyone else. We're just short."