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The height of discrimination

Publishing Date : 03 September, 2018

Stuart White
The World in Black-N-White



“Dwarfism is short stature that results from a genetic or medical condition.Dwarfism is generally defined as an adult height of 4 feet 10 inches (147 centimeters) or less. The average adult height among people with dwarfism is 4 feet (122 cm)” An interesting story on discrimination popped up in the news this week when a teenage dwarf was denied a place on a college course due entirely to his small stature.


I must confess I found it quite surprising that the word ‘dwarf’ is still acceptable, as opposed to a PC alternative such as ‘vertically challenged’.  There are a number of reality shows based around communities of short people on television at the moment and they are all prefaced by the phrase ‘Little’ so I rather thought the technical term ‘dwarf’ had fallen out of favour but apparently  not because the British press has been full of a particular story concerning a young dwarf called  Louis Makepeace who claims he has been banned from a college cooking course because his smallness poses a potential health and safety risk.


Mr. Makepeace, 18, who stands at 3ft 10in (117cm), said he was being discriminated against due to his size after being refused a place at Heart of  Worcestershire College. He was originally offered a conditional place for the  Hospitality and Catering course on 16 August but said the college staff later branded him a “safety risk” to the other 14 pupils, saying he would cause a “disruption” if he got under their feet.  His mother said the course leader also told her there was no point in him doing the course as he would never be allowed to work in a commercial kitchen.


Mr Makepeace, of Worcester, who has achondroplasia, a form of short-limbed dwarfism, said: “It was really upsetting as I had my heart set on this course. We are supposed to have equality of opportunity yet I’m not allowed to do something I love doing. They are simply not prepared to make the necessary adjustments to accommodate me such as making the surfaces and hobs lower. A spokeswoman for Heart of Worcestershire College said: “As the student’s place at the college is still under discussion, we do not wish to make a comment.”


Now as anyone who ever had custom kitchen units installed would attest, the height of the work surfaces can be dictated by the height of the user, as opposed to standard installation which comes at a uniform size.  However, in this instance it’s clear that at least some of the units in the college kitchens, along with the stoves or hot plats,  would have to undergo a serious size reduction in order to accommodate this one student who is considerably shorter in stature than the average catering student; equally clearly, it’s obvious that this would come at considerable expenditure just for a single student and funding in education as in most areas in life, is limited.


So, are the college authorities justified in what seems lat face value to be a clear case of discrimination?  And are they right in asserting that even if Louis were to be accepted, it would be futile since he would never find work in the industry owing to his diminutive stature?

Apparently not, because no soon had his sorry story hit the headlines (bear in mind that the UK parliament is on a summer break and this time of year is known to UK journalists as ‘the silly season’ owing to the shortage of serious news items!) than no other than larger-than-life and  at 1.87m not so small in stature celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay immediately jumped in to offer him a job, quickly followed by the owner of  one of London's longest standing Michelin restaurants , David Moore, of the Pied à Terre, in London's West End,  who said he felt disgusted by the treatment Louis received and wanted to give him his big break


Mr Moore, said: 'He is a brilliant character and we'd love to have him on board.  I invited him down today for a taster menu to see what we're all about and he has a great palate.  He has huge enthusiasm and passion and I think he would do really well here. The door is open for him to come and do whatever he likes. 'Whether that be work experience, an apprenticeship or hopefully at some point a full-time job - we just wanted to give him an opportunity to do what he loves.  We have a young team and I'm sure he would fit right in.  We believe that everyone should have access to training and opportunities and we always promote diversity, equality and inclusion in our restaurant.'


Louis said he was delighted with the opportunity and couldn't believe he had now received offers from a top eatery in the capital as well as TV chef Gordon Ramsay. The college itself, perhaps stung by the adverse publicity, is now backtracking.  In  a new statement, a spokesperson says 'Due to the timing of Louis’ application, this process is still ongoing and after further discussions have taken place both at the college and with Louis himself, we hope to have a final outcome by the end of this week. 
 

'We would like to state that at no point has Louis been told he could not attend his course but both Louis and Mrs Makepeace have been informed that the adjustments Louis requires will need to be agreed before an unconditional offer can be given.  The college has previously seen students with conditions similar to Louis succeed both academically and in the industry and we have no doubt that Louis will too succeed in his chosen field.' A small victory, then.  Such is the power of the (citrus) press!

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