Why do you think there has been such huge opposition to the Remploy closures?
We are reducing the number of factories we have and opening up recruitment branches, expanding our breadth of work and moving out of manufacturing and into the service industry, which is what is happening across the whole economy. During the modernisation programme no disabled person will be made compulsorily redundant, but no one likes change and so the process can be a bit painful.
As a member of Equality 2025 are you happy with a 17-year wait for disabled people to be equal?
It does worry me that the date is so far in the future. But we are setting ourselves ambitious targets and we are making plans that will ensure we achieve them.
We need to come at the issue of equality from a new angle. So with employment, for example, firms should say: “This is the job – can you do it?” If the answer is yes, they should say: “What adaptations do you need to be made to enable you to do it?”
You are a member of the Dwarf Athletics Association. Isn’t that word a bit dodgy?
When we set up the association we had a big debate about the word “dwarf” and we decided to reclaim it to take the stigma away. My kids have T-shirts with Real Live Dwarf written on the front and then “not really – it’s just a costume” on the back. It’s great. But I can see that using the term dwarf isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Over in the US they have The Little People of America and I find that very patronising.
Do people’s attitudes make you angry?
It seems to be OK to ridicule dwarves in the media these days and that feeds down to the playground. Some kids take it on the chin, but it unsettles others. I have a daughter of 15 and a son aged 11 and they are pretty resilient I think. But it doesn’t help.
Did people try to talk you out of starting a family?
Yes. We were told “you will continue the disease”. But fortunately there were also some more forward-thinking doctors who said “this is what you do and this is the support you need”. In fact my daughter Rosie’s twin only lived for 10 days.
Did you have a happy childhood?
I did. My parents weren’t dwarves and they were determined that I would have as normal an upbringing as possible. I went to a mainstream school and I remember when I was 11 we had a health check and the doctor told me I was a “spontaneous genetic mutation”. My mother was furious that he said such a thing to a child.
Do you relish campaigning?
Not really, but the only way to change anything is to put your head above the parapet. A friend said to me: “Wouldn’t it be great if our kids grew up to be activists like us?” I thought “no, it wouldn’t.” My daughter wants to be an architect. I want her to have a normal life and not have to fight for it.
What is your ambition?
A quiet life, a bottle of wine and a place in the south of France, that sort of thing.
I suppose my real ambition is equality.
This article appeared in the 25 October issue under the headline “‘Change can be a painful process'”