People Are So Worried About Offending People – We’ve Shot Ourselves in the Foot

Original post from Huffington Post

‘………..By   Actor and television presenter

Life’s been awkward since the moment, I was born.

The doctor came in and said to my dad, “Would you mind standing up?” My dad stood up. And he looked at him and he said, “You’re not unusually short, are you?” And my dad went, “No, why?” And the doctor just nodded and left. And as the doctor was leaving, my dad said, “Have I had a son or a daughter?” And he said, “Oh, I don’t know,” and he left the room.

Since then I’ve had my fair share of awkward moments.

At school, for example, my run up to the long jump was textbook. I took off, didn’t even make it as far as the sand. Then we’ve got the high jump – I couldn’t even get onto the crash mat. We also did the hurdles – or as I like to call it, the limbo! Then there was football, and I liked football, but the only problem was our football kit was black and white, so I was always mistaken for the ball and I’d spend most of my time running away from the other players.

As I got older, the awkwardness continued – especially in social situations. At a party, being only three foot six, I’m at everyone’s waist height. If you’re in a crowded room and everyone’s having drinks, all the conversations are taking place two or three feet above me. It’s very difficult for me to just walk into a group and become part of that conversation, because I’m just looking at hands and bums.

New video released by the disability charity Scope with Warwick Davis, reveals real life awkward moments that disabled people have experienced when out socialising, dating or at work. The film also features: Bad Education star Jack Binstead, Nic Hamilton, racing driver and brother of Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton, and many others.

In trying to do the right thing, people often crouch down to chat to me. I then crouch down as well, which is quite funny. Some people just sit on the floor and chat, and that is quite nice if you’re having a long conversation – it saves me looking up all the time and getting neck ache, and it’s nice to talk face to face.

Trying to do the right thing can get people tongue tied too.

I had somebody come round to measure up for a new patio. I said, “I wouldn’t mind a wall around the perimeter of the patio.” And he said “Oh, you mean a dwarf wall… I mean a short wall… I mean, er, a wall with just a few bricks.” He was trying to avoid saying anything to do with my height. I said, “Yeah, yeah, it is technically called a dwarf wall…”

Even for me, sometimes I don’t know what to say. I met somebody in hospital in a waiting room who had difficulty controlling his limbs. I started to chat to the guy, and I was a little bit anxious at first – I said, “I hope you don’t mind me asking but what condition do you have?”

He said, “I’ve got Parkinson’s.” Then he said, “What’s terrible is that a lot of people think I’m an alcoholic, they think I’m drunk.” People even questioned his mental capability. I had a fascinating conversation with him, and it really did make me think – he liked talking about it, and he’d rather talk about it because then nobody’s judging him through ignorance.


Behind the Scenes with Warwick Davis on the #EndtheAwkward video shoot.
Behind the Scenes with Warwick Davis on the #EndtheAwkward video shoot.

The more people try not to speak about someone’s disability or difference, the more they’ll end up stumbling – and it’s very obvious to that person what’s going on. And they won’t be offended! I don’t mind somebody acknowledging my height or talking about dwarfism. To be honest, if they’re curious or inquisitive, I’d rather we did chat about it.

Children are naturally very curious about the world, and often a child will spot me and be like, “Mummy, look, there’s a little person over there!” What I don’t like seeing is if the parent then chastises the child, because I think that gives the child a bad impression of that experience and they’ll grow up with that awkwardness. So I’ll try and quickly strike up a conversation with the child and the parent by going, “Hi, how’s it going? Are you shopping?” and talk about what they’re doing. I’ll say, “I’m Warwick” and give myself an identity to them – so I’m not just some ‘thing’, I’m a person, and I sound just like their parents do, and it’s okay.

I was in America just last week and this little girl came up and she went, “Are you real?” I went, “Yeah, yeah, I think so.” And then I heard her go off, “Mummy, mummy! He is real! I don’t know what she thought I might have been. She was at Disney World, so maybe she thought I was one of the animatronic characters, put in the pool for her amusement. Those sort of moments – I enjoy them, I don’t ever feel offended by them.

Without campaigns like End the Awkward, we will end up being unable to socialise with each other because nobody will want to offend anybody else and we’ll just stop talking. I’d rather people be really open and said what they feel as long as they’re not being offensive on purpose. Let’s talk about it!

I don’t mind if people ask questions about my height, so long as they’re polite. Again, more often than not it’s kids going, “Why is he short?”. I’ll say, “It’s genetics – the instructions that created me aren’t quite the same as the ones that created you, but the world is a diverse place”.

I do a bit of End the Awkward naturally myself in life! In the sense of just approaching my difference with humour, and hopefully making people feel at ease with it. I understand what it is like to feel awkward in situations and around people who are different, and I don’t want people feeling that way when they’re with me, so I just kind of approach it head-on.

Warwick Davis stars in Scope’s End the Awkward video, which aims to get people thinking differently about disability. For more information about Scope and the campaign, please visit


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