The You’re Just Little photographic exhibition reveals the challenges, obstacles and societal assumptions that Dwarf people face on a daily basis.
Episode one talks about accessibility and the daily difficulties dwarf people face moving around the environment, including public spaces.
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To talk about the exhibition and the content of this podcast, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment below or join in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, using the hashtag #yourejustlittle.
Hello, I’m Steph, the curator, creative activist, and artist behind this work.
You’re Just Little was a photographic exhibition that was first shown in October 2018 at Spectrum Cultural Hub in County Durham. The aim of the exhibition was to reveal the challenges, obstacles and societal assumptions that people, like myself, with Dwarfism, face on a daily basis.
If you have any questions feel free to email me over at email@example.com, over on the website mentioned just now and you can also find us on social media with the hashtag #yourejustlittle – that’s y-o-u-r-e-just-little.
This particular photograph looks at the theme of accessibility, or the lack of, and the difficulties that dwarf people like me face on a daily basis and how these difficulties are not recognised, let alone acknowledged by the society we are expected to function in.
In the photo, you can see the reflection of the top of my forehead with my sunglasses perched on the top of my head, in a mirror in the ladies toilets. In the background, you can see the toilet door entrance to the right of where I am stood and the blue doors to the cubicles are behind me to the left. Directly in front of me, I am staring, almost eye-level with the faucet and the tip of the tap handles, and with the wide splash-back, dark-grey tiles behind them. The basin is directly in front of me, at my waist level.
For me, this photograph captures perfectly the difficulties I face when moving around the environment, and I say the environment as I mean the public as well as private spaces.
This particular photo shows difficulties accessing a space that non-disabled take as a given and expected right, to be able to go to and use the toilet. Something your non-disabled, average-height, person need never to think about.
From a dwarf perspective, entering these spaces can be and are anxiety-inducing experiences. I’m 4ft 4” (which is 133cm), with a proportionate form of dwarfism, so more often than not, I am able to reach the door handles to be able to open the door. That said, to actually be able to open the door, because of its weight, is a small feat in using my whole body to push against it to actually be able to open it, which can be painful. There’s also the worry if you’ll be able to leave the space because the doors are so heavy. If you’re smaller than my 4ft 4” then you have the issue of whether you’ll be able to access the toilets in the first place, because the door handles will be out of reach.
Then there are the cubicles. More often than not these days, toilet locks are lower, however, there is that moment of anxiety if you will or won’t be afforded privacy. Imagine you re 3ft 3”, then you have to ask someone to wait outside the door as a human shield to let people know you’re there to be able to keep your dignity and privacy. If there is no soul about, this is where you get creative with your coat or handbag against the door and hope those who enter the toilet space after you, notice your visual cues. And while we are here, let’s talk about the coat hanger, 99.9% of the time, they are simply out of reach of Dwarf person. This means we have a decision to make, put our clothing on potentially, or most likely, dirty floors or contort our bodies to clean ourselves, which is not an easy feat. Then there are the toilets themselves – which can also be like mini mountains to climb or balance on.
Well, why don’t you use the disabled toilet you may think? Hmm, a valid question, yes.
Everything is low except, guess what, yes, the primary reason for using the space in the disabled toilet in the first place – the toilet. Have you seen how high those things are? That’s if we’re not challenged for using the disabled facilities in the first place.
And therein lies one of the many dilemmas for dwarf people. The non-disabled toilet is inaccessible in terms of getting into as well as posing a challenge for privacy. There is the difficulty in maintaining cleanliness, to be able to wash our hands – because soap dispensers are so often located behind sinks, attached to the walls. Or the basin and taps are just too high to reach or we have to overextend our bodies to be able to wash our hands, which can cause pain.
Significantly, though probably less obvious, is the exclusion that I, and many other dwarf ladies, experience. We can’t check something as simple our appearance, because like the photo shows, mirrors are hung for the average-height – in restaurants, pubs, cinemas, and shops. It’s not being able to put on some lippy or to check if we have any remnants of our meal stuck in between our teeth. This simple act of looking at your reflection, further compounds the feelings of not fitting into wider society and excluded. Or at the least, not a full member of.
Granted it’s where we dwarf ladies are creative – using the reflective button on a hand dryer, or a door handle or carrying a pocket mirror in our handbags. Still… it’s not the same experience. [ pause ]
As I mentioned at the beginning of the episode, ultimately what I want to show with this particular photo are the challenges that dwarf people face on a daily basis in situations, average-height, non-disabled people take as a given. A right to be able to access facilities and services, without thought.
Dwarfism, medically, is classed as a person who stands at 4t 10” (147cm) or shorter and there are over 200 known forms of this disability. I stand at 4ft 4” (133cm), about the height that an average-height wheelchair user sits at. However, Dwarf people are not afforded such an understanding or recognition that our disability presents in mainstream society, as it does not reflect the stereotypical view or command as much understanding or empathy.
In fact, we are more likely to mocked, ridiculed and objectified in arts, culture and the media, as well on the street for the way we were born, dismissed by friends and family for our experiences, silenced by professionals and public bodies. Yet we face daily difficulties moving around a society, like accessing public toilets.
You’re Just Little, we are told.
Thanks for taking a look at this particular photograph. Don’t forget you can see the actual photo over at hellolittlelady.com. If you have any questions please do email them over at firstname.lastname@example.org, or join in the conversation, through social media using the hashtag #yourejustlittle. And don’t forget to take a look at our other photos too.