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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 November, 2003, 16:44 GMT
Dwarves look to end discrimination

By Ben Davies
BBC News Online political staff

A group of people of restricted growth have lobbied MPs in Westminster in an effort to end discrimination.

Preparing to lobby parliament
There was a good turnout for the lobby of Parliament
Activists say people are aware they should be sensitive about terms they apply to most minority groups but dwarfs are often a butt of humour.

Sandy Marshall of the Restricted Growth Association attacked the way some elements of the media feel it is acceptable to make fun of dwarfs.

"Enough is enough, we have come to here to make ourselves heard," she said.

Ms Marshall said that the final straw for her was a series of derogatory remarks aired on the Johnny Vaughan Show when he had writer Will Self on as a guest.

"We have come from all over the country and we hope that people will listen to us and address our needs," she told BBC News Online.

Nichola Dean, 28, had travelled down from Birmingham in order to "break the stereotype of the circus".

"We feel in a weird bracket of neither being disabled, nor being able bodied," she said.

Ms Dean also said that the media's portrayal of dwarfs was such that new guidelines needed to be drawn up.

But she added: "We have become an easy target - we have never stood up for ourselves."

She acknowledged that one of the difficulties is what terminology to employ when talking about this issue.

Law and education

That was also a point made by Steven Scott, 43, from Cheshire.

He said: "I represent the Dwarf Athletics Association, in the US they say "little person", and then there are those who say "restricted growth".

Sandy Marshall
Ms Marshall believes 'enough is enough'
"If someone calls you a dwarf and they are being respectful then that's ok."

Mr Scott added that he wanted to fight discrimination on several levels: through changes in legislation but also through educating and enlightening people.

Natalie Sweeting, 21, has turned her experiences of discrimination to positive effect.

The Lincoln University student is doing a dissertation on discrimination in the workplace, informed in part by her experience of working in a part-time job where people assumed she was not capable because of her size.

Natalie Sweeting
Natalie Sweeting is writing a dissertation about discrimination
Lib Dem MP Patsy Calton took part in Wednesday's lobby of Parliament.

She said she first became involved in the campaign after being contacted by a constituent complaining about the Johnny Vaughan Show.

Last month she addressed the issue in an adjournment debate in Parliament and she is also behind a House of Commons motion highlighting the work of the Restricted Growth Association and the Dwarf Athletics Association UK.


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