Riley Windeler doesn’t let his small stature stand in his way.
The 25-year-old Horsefly resident, who has a form of short-limbed dwarfism called Hypochondroplasia, wants to share the challenges and opportunities he’s faced in his life growing up and living in the Cariboo as part of October’s Dwarfism Awareness Month.
“The main thing is we may be smaller and not physically the same but we can still do the same things with adaptations as everyone else, and we want to be treated the same as everyone else,” Windeler said.
Growing up going to school in Horsefly was an enjoyable experience, he said, noting everyone in the small town knew each other, accepted him for who he was and was friendly.
It wasn’t until he moved on to high school in Williams Lake when Windeler began getting picked on by his peers.
“There was lots of bullying,” he said. “Mostly the term ‘midget,’ which we consider highly offensive.”
Since high school, Windeler has gone on to obtain a human services diploma from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops and now works as an educational assistant at Horsefly Elementary/Junior Secondary School.
As an adult, however, the looks, the stares and the discrimination still creep their way into his life on a daily basis.
“It’s an every day thing,” he said. “But after a while you learn to ignore it.”
Finding work is also a struggle many little people face, he said.
“As I got older obtaining work and jobs became a challenge,” he said.
“Employers don’t always see you as being able, they see you as being different and think you won’t be able to fulfill the job to its description.”
But with adaptations, like the ones Windeler uses on his brake, gas pedal and seat to drive a vehicle, most jobs and tasks can be easily accomplished, he said.
His size has granted him the opportunity to travel around North America and to educate people about dwarfism.
Windeler is an avid sports fan, the president of the Little People of BC and the vice-president of the Dwarf Athletic Association of Canada.
He attends the Little People of America National Conference every summer — the most recent in St. Louis last year — alongside roughly 3,000 other little people.
He also competes as a member of Team Canada and on various teams in Dwarf Athletic Association of America events playing volleyball and soccer, among other sports.
Windeler is a member of Little People Big World star and friend Zach Roloff’s soccer team and appeared on the TV show in 2007 and 2008. He credited the program with bringing awareness about dwarfism to the forefront of mainstream media.
He also worked with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) legend Mick Foley (Mankind, Cactus Jack) during his comedy show in Salmon Arm last year as a referee in a skit involving Hulk Hogan.
His experiences, his friends and those who accept him have allowed him to continue to keep a positive outlook and he continues to be an advocate for people with dwarfism in his day-to-day life.
“We’re all the same,” he said.
“That’s the biggest thing. We may look different but inside we’re the same as everyone else.”
For more on the Little People of BC visit www.littlepeopleofbc.org/index.html.