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Dwarf 'banned' from college cooking course because he's 'a health and safety risk'

Louis Makepeace claims senior college staff said he would cause a 'disruption' to the other 14 pupils on the course

Richard McAllister
Wednesday 29 August 2018 09:30 BST
'They are simply not prepared to make the necessary adjustments to accommodate me', says Louis Makepeace
'They are simply not prepared to make the necessary adjustments to accommodate me', says Louis Makepeace (SWNS/Jon Mills)

A teenager with dwarfism claims he has been banned from a college cooking course because he is a potential health and safety risk.

Louis 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 has now backtracked because he is too small for the kitchen.

Mr Makepeace claims senior college staff branded him a “safety risk” to the other 14 pupils. He claimed they said 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.

The teenager now fears his dream of becoming a chef is over after his “humiliating” ordeal.

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.

“We were prepared to be flexible and my mum said I could maybe do the cooking at home while the new equipment was installed but they kept saying no. They said I would be a health and safety risk and disruption to the other students and get in their way, which was really humiliating.

“It really has dented my confidence. How am I ever supposed to get the culinary skills that are going to get me a job in a catering environment? I have always loved cooking Italian recipes since I was little, and keeping myself healthy and fit and I’m a huge fan of Gino D’Acampo.

“All the time I was at school I was always very confident, I had lots of friends and my disability was never an issue. But how am I supposed to get by if this is how I’m treated – I feel like I have been excluded from the real world.

“My confidence is shrinking and I feel that people stare and laugh at me. People just think I’m still a kid and will push in front of me in queues. I just want to be treated as a normal person without them laughing at me and go around and do quite normal stuff.”

Mr Makepeace’s mother said she is still pushing for a final answer from the college but has been told to find Louis another course.

She added: “He’s been really upset by this, he got the initial offer but now they are pulling the rug from under his feet. They won’t give me a straight answer, but when I asked the course leader whether he should find another course he told me it would ‘probably be a good idea’.

“He said it was pointless doing the course as he would never be allowed to work in a restaurant kitchen anyway, even if he qualified. It was outrageous. He claimed that Louis would be a health and safety hazard in the kitchen to his other pupils so we couldn’t have him standing on a step of some sort.

She added: “Apparently it would take seven weeks for contractors to come in to make adjustments such as a lower surface and lower hobs and they weren’t prepared to wait. It wouldn’t be so bad but there was a chap there several years ago who had the same condition as Louis and they adjusted the kitchens for him.

“I would have thought that would have had the same equipment there that he could use. I keep getting so irate because we were prepared to be flexible and do work from home via a video-link while the adjustments are made. But they just keep fobbing me off with excuses and say he should do another course instead.”

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.”

South West News Service

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