'I've had enough': Northampton Paralympic swimmer Will Perry speaks out against 'shocking' abuse he receives for his dwarfism

Will Perry, 21, says that he cannot even buy groceries from the shop without being stared at, mocked or ridiculed for his short stature

By Megan Hillery
Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 7:11 pm

A 21-year-old Northampton Paralympian has opened up about the 'unjust' amount of abuse he suffers every time he goes out in public.

Will Perry, 21, grew up in Surrey and moved to Wootton in Northampton in 2018 with his parents and his younger brother and sister.

He lives with achondroplasia, which is a form of dwarfism that results in short upper arms and thighs.

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Northampton Paralympian, Will Perry, 21, is speaking out against the abuse he has received for his dwarfism.

Will's disability did not hold him back from his dream. The Northampton Swimming Club athlete gained his first competitive international experience at 2021’s European Championships in Madeira and then went on to compete for Great Britain in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games last year, which had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the public eye and in the pool, he is celebrated and applauded. When he tries to go about his daily life at home, it is a very different story.

Will said: "I have been shouted at, laughed at, filmed and photographed by members of the public, followed around shops and pointed at, being made fun of. This occurs every time I go out into the town centre and every time I see people.

"I was bullied at school from when I was a young teenager because of it. I was singled out and excluded a lot."

Although Will endeavours not to let this behaviour get to him, one particular incident left him with a bad taste in his mouth after it caught him on a bad day.

He said: "It was a clothes snagged on a door handle kind of day. I lost my car keys so I had to run around to get to and from training. All I wanted to do was get some nice food for dinner. I normally order food in but, this time, I went to the shop. I instinctively look at everyone around me to see their reaction.

"There were three girls - looked about sixteen - they were hiding behind their masks and looking down and giggling. One said 'oh my god, there's a ******* dwarf'."

After doing his shopping, Will left the shop to find that the same three teenagers were waiting outside watching to see who came out of the shop. That was when he decided to confront them for mocking his appearance, which he said they denied and then berated him further for his 'overreaction'.

Will said the incident made him 'want to cry' and shared the ordeal on his Instagram page, which went viral and received an outpouring of sympathy from his followers as well as supportive messages from other Paralympians claiming they have suffered from the same kind of treatment - including gold medal winning Paralympian, Maisie Summers-Newton MBE, from Wollaston.

Now, the Northampton Paralympian has decided enough is enough and wants to raise awareness of the mockery he - and other Paralympians with dwarfism - are subject to when they go out in public.

Will said: "I just really want to emphasise what we actually go through in terms of abuse because it is shocking. It would mean a lot to the community just to educate people on this.

"You don't need to notice us. We look a bit different but that's it. We have done much with combatting racism, discrimination and ableism and we need to do the same with this. I want the public to know how this affects us as people and how upset it makes us and how we really want to be viewed as normal."

Living with dwarfism has meant that Will has to go to great lengths to adapt his lifestyle to his short stature including having his car adapted so that he can drive, having stools everywhere so that he can reach things and having light switches fitted in lower positions. It also meant that he could not get involved with sports such as rugby and football.

Many people living with dwarfism suffer from additional medical conditions caused by the disability - that is not the case for Will. These include hearing impairments, breathing problems, hydrocephalus (a build up of fluid in the brain), spinal stenosis leading to the compression of nerves to the limbs and joint problems due to leg bowing.

According to the Restricted Growth Association UK, people with achondroplasia have normal intelligence and life expectancy and most are born to average size parents - so there is no reason why someone with achondroplasia should not participate in most activities.

People living with dwarfism should be able to lead relatively normal lives - if it was not for general reactions from the public. Will said he feels he is treated 'like a second or even third rate of society.'

He added: "Many of us feel like our existence in society is a complete joke and that goes even for the most well-known people with dwarfism who are Paralympic and World champions. I’ve suffered abuse alongside them as much as anyone else.

"I’ve had enough of it, and I really want to create a story that can bring this issue to public life and, as a GB Paralympian, I feel that it is my duty to do so."

To find out more about dwarfism, visit the Restricted Growth Association UK website.