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The height of discrimination

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

“Dwarfism is short stature that results from a genetic or medical condition.Dwarfism is generally defined as an adult height of 4 feet 10 inches (147 centimeters) or less. The average adult height among people with dwarfism is 4 feet (122 cm)” An interesting story on discrimination popped up in the news this week when a teenage dwarf was denied a place on a college course due entirely to his small stature.

I must confess I found it quite surprising that the word ‘dwarf’ is still acceptable, as opposed to a PC alternative such as ‘vertically challenged’.  There are a number of reality shows based around communities of short people on television at the moment and they are all prefaced by the phrase ‘Little’ so I rather thought the technical term ‘dwarf’ had fallen out of favour but apparently  not because the British press has been full of a particular story concerning a young dwarf called  Louis Makepeace who claims he has been banned from a college cooking course because his smallness poses a potential health and safety risk.

Mr. Makepeace, 18, who stands at 3ft 10in (117cm), said he was being discriminated against due to his size after being refused a place at Heart of  Worcestershire College. He was originally offered a conditional place for the  Hospitality and Catering course on 16 August but said the college staff later branded him a “safety risk” to the other 14 pupils, saying he would cause a “disruption” if he got under their feet.  His mother said the course leader also told her there was no point in him doing the course as he would never be allowed to work in a commercial kitchen.

Mr Makepeace, of Worcester, who has achondroplasia, a form of short-limbed dwarfism, said: “It was really upsetting as I had my heart set on this course. We are supposed to have equality of opportunity yet I’m not allowed to do something I love doing. They are simply not prepared to make the necessary adjustments to accommodate me such as making the surfaces and hobs lower. A spokeswoman for Heart of Worcestershire College said: “As the student’s place at the college is still under discussion, we do not wish to make a comment.”

Now as anyone who ever had custom kitchen units installed would attest, the height of the work surfaces can be dictated by the height of the user, as opposed to standard installation which comes at a uniform size.  However, in this instance it’s clear that at least some of the units in the college kitchens, along with the stoves or hot plats,  would have to undergo a serious size reduction in order to accommodate this one student who is considerably shorter in stature than the average catering student; equally clearly, it’s obvious that this would come at considerable expenditure just for a single student and funding in education as in most areas in life, is limited.

So, are the college authorities justified in what seems lat face value to be a clear case of discrimination?  And are they right in asserting that even if Louis were to be accepted, it would be futile since he would never find work in the industry owing to his diminutive stature?

Apparently not, because no soon had his sorry story hit the headlines (bear in mind that the UK parliament is on a summer break and this time of year is known to UK journalists as ‘the silly season’ owing to the shortage of serious news items!) than no other than larger-than-life and  at 1.87m not so small in stature celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay immediately jumped in to offer him a job, quickly followed by the owner of  one of London's longest standing Michelin restaurants , David Moore, of the Pied à Terre, in London's West End,  who said he felt disgusted by the treatment Louis received and wanted to give him his big break

Mr Moore, said: 'He is a brilliant character and we'd love to have him on board.  I invited him down today for a taster menu to see what we're all about and he has a great palate.  He has huge enthusiasm and passion and I think he would do really well here. The door is open for him to come and do whatever he likes. 'Whether that be work experience, an apprenticeship or hopefully at some point a full-time job – we just wanted to give him an opportunity to do what he loves.  We have a young team and I'm sure he would fit right in.  We believe that everyone should have access to training and opportunities and we always promote diversity, equality and inclusion in our restaurant.'

Louis said he was delighted with the opportunity and couldn't believe he had now received offers from a top eatery in the capital as well as TV chef Gordon Ramsay. The college itself, perhaps stung by the adverse publicity, is now backtracking.  In  a new statement, a spokesperson says 'Due to the timing of Louis’ application, this process is still ongoing and after further discussions have taken place both at the college and with Louis himself, we hope to have a final outcome by the end of this week. 

'We would like to state that at no point has Louis been told he could not attend his course but both Louis and Mrs Makepeace have been informed that the adjustments Louis requires will need to be agreed before an unconditional offer can be given.  The college has previously seen students with conditions similar to Louis succeed both academically and in the industry and we have no doubt that Louis will too succeed in his chosen field.' A small victory, then.  Such is the power of the (citrus) press!

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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