Little people, also known as dwarves, LPs, and people of short stature, are a diverse group. They came from all walks of life, representing all ethnicities, sexual orientations, genders, religious groups, and class backgrounds. Dwarfism - which is defined by an adult height of 4' 10" or under - is caused by over 200 different medical conditions. 70 percent of cases are the result of achondroplasia, which affects affects between 1 in 15,000 to 1 in 40,000 people worldwide.
So, what's it like to be a little person? In a lot of ways, of course, it's just like being any other individual. But the things little people have to deal with are often unique to their situation. For some, the hardest part of being a little person is the discrimination they face. For others, it's the medical complications. Chances are, you have no idea what little people problems are dealt with on a daily basis.
Service machines like ATMs, ticket machines, gas pumps, and self-service checkout registers can be difficult, if not impossible, for little people to use. All of these machines are designed with the average adult height in mind, which makes reaching the device in order to operate it a challenge. While adaptive devices do exist, they aren't always convenient.
Airbags are designed to protect against serious injury in a car crash, but they can be fatal for little people. That's because they're designed to meet average-sized people in the chest and abdomen, which means that they can smother people of shorter stature. For this reason, Little People of America recommends that little people consider having airbags removed from their cars.
Shoes are usually designed either for children or for average-sized adults. Little people's feet are often the length of children's feet, but they can be much too wide to fit into children's sizes. Even if children's sizes do fit, finding styles that are appropriate for adults can be challenging.
Dating isn't easy under the best of circumstances, but for little people, there are some extra obstacles. Little people have two choices: they can either date other little people, or they can date average-sized people. Both present their own sets of issues. Dating average-sized people often means facing prejudice, if not from the person they're dating, then from their family and friends. It's not uncommon for little people to hear things like “if you weren’t little, I would date you."
While dating inside the community means shared experiences and understanding, it isn't always easy either. Only about one per 15,000 to 40,000 people have achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism. That means that the chances are slim of actually meeting another little person without help from organizations like Little People of America and Internet dating. Many relationships between little people start off long distance, which creates its own problems.