Imagine going through life at eye-level with everyone else’s waist or chest. People tower above you like giants. You feel like a kindergartner operating in a world of adults.
I don’t have to imagine, this is everyday life for me.
Growing up, I learned to adapt to a world built for “tall” people. My family kept stools around the house, and changed a couple door knobs and faucet handles for easier access, but that was about it. The world would not cater to my height, so why should my house? Because very few adjustments were made for my dwarfism, no one ever made a huge deal about it. This resulted in me growing up feeling mostly normal. I was blessed with friends who never treated me any differently based on my dwarfism, and many adults in my life did the same. Dwarfism was something that was a part of me, no different than my blue eyes or my love for the piano. I felt like a normal kid, only shorter.
Problem is, I’m not normal.
As I get older, I have quickly noticed how very little the world provides for people of short stature. Businesses are required to make provisions for people in wheelchairs, people with vision impairments, or those with other physical disabilities; however, the same consideration is not often made for those with dwarfism.
Anytime I walk into a public restroom, it’s an experience. I struggle to find a place to put my things, because the hook on the door is too high for me to reach. Nine times out of ten I can’t wash my hands because the counter is too high, the faucet is too far back for me to operate, or I can’t reach the soap dispenser (don’t worry Mom, I always carry hand sanitizer). Not to mention simply getting on the toilet can be a challenge, because sometimes it’s three-quarters as tall as me.
When I’m shopping, very rarely can I use a shopping cart, because I can’t see over it to navigate. I can’t reach half the stuff on the shelves without climbing or asking for help. When I’m checking out, I usually can’t reach the card reader for my credit card and have to ask the cashier for help. Heaven forbid I need to sign a receipt, since the counters are far too high to be of any use.
When I put gas in my car, I have to use a step stool to see the screen and select the correct options. Even when they have a separate keypad for those in wheelchairs, you still select options from the one screen, which I rarely can see without a stool.
Buying clothes, doing laundry, cooking a meal, playing the piano, driving a car, all examples of things most people don’t think twice about, but I cannot do without a stool or assistive device(s). All things geared towards “normal” people of a certain height.
No matter how much my friends and family do to accommodate my stature in life, the rest of the world is there to remind me that I don’t fit “normal.” “Normal” has a different definition for me than the rest of the world, and we will never see eye to eye. I do my best to make the most out of the life I have and operate as independently as I possibly can in a world that’s not built for me. However, “making the most” out of life doesn’t make it any less discouraging to realize there’s no end in sight. I’m not getting any taller, and the world’s not getting any smaller. That’s the way things are and I have to find ways to live with it, just like anyone else living with dwarfism, or other physical or mental disabilities that are their “normal.”
I wish I had an inspiring end to this post; however, there’s no way to tie it up with a neat little bow. But isn’t that life? Life doesn’t get the “and they all lived happily ever after” ending we grew up seeing in books or movies. Each person has to make their life worth living every day and find a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Even if I’m not “normal,” I can still find those reasons and help others find theirs.
“I don’t need a life that’s normal, that’s way too far away. But something next to normal would be okay.” – “Maybe” from the musical Next to Normal