Little person raises awareness

New Abbotsford resident Riley Windeler spreads awareness of dwarfism

Riley Windeler is a little person with big goals.

Riley Windeler is a little person with big goals.

Riley Windeler may be shorter in stature than the average person, but that hasn’t stopped him from standing tall for little people.

The new University of the Fraser Valley student, from Horsefly, B.C. – a town of roughly 1,000 residents, close to Williams Lake – was born with a form of dwarfism called Hypochondroplasia.

At 26 years old, he has already spent much of his life advocating for and spreading awareness of little people.

Windeler is so devoted that he has earned himself positions as both the president of Little People of B.C. and the vice-president of Dwarf Athletics Canada.

His work has brought him to many of the continent’s biggest cities for annual Little People of America conferences.

The conferences are the number one advantage to living with dwarfism, Windeler says, as they provide the unique experience of being in the majority, among other little people.

Windeler has also gone to many events, including having a table at a Vancouver Canadians baseball game last year.

There, he was able to talk to people and hand out literature about dwarfism and the experiences of little people in everyday life.

One of the key things he and other little people want the public to know is the appropriate language to use when talking to someone with dwarfism.

“The word ‘midget’ is considered highly offensive,” he says.

Yet he hears it daily, including in his new home of Abbotsford.

“You notice it and at the same time you just keep going with what you’re doing,” he says. “You get used to it.”

He also dislikes it when people stare at him in public, and if it is done to the point where it makes a scene, he’ll simply confront them.

“I’ll walk up to them and I’ll say, ‘You know, this is the case’ … I’ll try to educate them.”

For Dwarfism Awareness Month (October) he has been making Facebook posts highlighting some of the less obvious challenges little people face.

One post is directed at shoe manufacturers.

“Please create a common shoe that you would see in adult sizes in smaller and wider sizes,” he wrote, adding that his shoe size is between most children’s and adult shoe sizes.

“When I do hit the jackpot of finding a shoe that fits and looks good, I will generally buy two or three pairs.”

He has also requested that hotels include stools or install lower counters, to better accommodate lower-statured people.

Windeler moved to the Fraser Valley to begin studying aircraft structures technology at UFV – which may one day earn him a job in the field after graduation next June.

Abbotsford came with lifelong friends built in for Windeler – through his work with Little People of B.C.

His schoolmates have so far made him feel like he belongs, he says, which is in contrast to the harsh bullying he experienced when he went to high school in Williams Lake.

At UFV, he has not yet encountered any physical tasks his short stature has prevented him from doing.

There have even been instances where schoolmates have tried to adjust tools to make it easier for him, even when it was unnecessary.

He said that feels somewhat condescending, but he knows people are simply trying to help.

When he is not studying, Windeler is working on a children’s book about a young little person chasing athletic dreams.

But given the chance, would he would switch bodies with a taller person?

“Maybe for a week, to see how the whole average-stature world lives like, but no – I was born this way, I want to be this way. I’m me.”

Just Posted

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Abbotsford council has given permission for Chilliwack to use the JAMES wastewater treatment plant for the disposal of trucked liquid waste until the end of September.
Chilliwack gets exemption to Abbotsford bylaw prohibiting liquid waste from other cities

Process in place until September while new facility under construction in Chilliwack

There were a total of 182 deaths of trumpeter swans at Judson Lake over the past winter, according to the Save the Swans website. The lake has the heaviest lead concentration of any known lake, the website states. (PHOTO: savetheswans.ca)
Abbotsford man starts petition, saying lead shot is killing waterfowl in Judson Lake and beyond

Farmer Kevin Sinclair says local lake is ‘poster child’ for swans’ deaths from lead poisoning

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

A search is underway for a 75-year-old fisherman who went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search continues for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

Canadian, U.S. Coast Guard searching for 75-year-old man reported missing Thursday evening

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read