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In conversation with Bill Klein

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Bill Klein and his wife, Jen Arnold, who both have dwarfism, star in the reality television series The Little Couple. Now in its sixth season on The Learning Channel, the show has been following their lives since 2009, including showing them getting married, adopting two children with dwarfism, and building a customized house in Houston, Texas.

Klein is a medical supplies businessman while Arnold is medical director of the pediatric simulation center at Texas Children's Hospital.

Klein will be in Winnipeg on Thursday serving as keynote speaker at the 25th anniversary dinner of Reaching E-Quality Employment Services (REES), a non-profit charitable organization that promotes employment of people with disabilities or health conditions. Tickets for the gala, being held at Canad Inns Polo Park, are $150 each and can be purchased by going to http://www.re-es.org/ or by calling 204-832-7337.

Klein recently spoke by telephone from Houston with Free Press reporter Kevin Rollason.

 

KR: You're coming to Winnipeg to speak at a dinner. Have you ever been to Winnipeg before?

BK: No, this will be the first time. I've been to London, Ont., and I've been to Toronto. London is the farthest west I've been in Canada. They haven't told me much about Winnipeg. The good news I hear is there is no snow. I used to live in New York and it was a lot colder there than where I am now. My blood has got used to the weather here.


KR: What will you be telling people who attend the REES conference?

BK: It will be a celebration of things. It will be uplifting and I want to highlight the good work they are doing. Often times people with disabilities are overlooked because the interviewer is uncomfortable with the interviewee. But there's untapped resources with people with disabilities. That's why what REES has been doing... is very remarkable. People with disabilities are often more loyal, produce more aggressively, care about their job more, help with morale, and are better employees than most others.


KR: You and your family have raised a lot of awareness about dwarfism by showing everything you can do, but what stereotypes are still out there that you encounter every day?

BK: People have preconceived notions based on your appearance. Whether it is with dating or someone with a job interview, it's all about a person you're talking with being comfortable with you. If they are not comfortable with you, they might not want to be with you again. But it would be a misinterpretation of what I'm capable of doing. My size is a distraction to them. But if they can get past that, we can do things. When I was first out of college, no degree -- or the charming personality I have -- would erase that physical impression. There were many times I wouldn't get a second job interview and it was frustrating. Look at where I am now. It shows there is a right match for everyone.

Ultimately it comes down to the one certainty. Everybody has something that is unique. Ours happens to be physical, and it is readily apparent to anyone who sees us. But often we find there's a lot of similarities, whether it is fertility to adoption to building a home, with the frustrations and all that. And juggling personal and professional lives. There's more similarities than there are differences.

 

KR: How is your wife, Jen, doing? (Her fight with cancer, diagnosed as stage three choriocarcinoma, was shown on their television show. She currently is in remission)

BK: I have a lot of people to thank -- family, friends, people leaving food in a Tupperware container so I didn't have to worry about cooking for our children. It is amazing, the support we had. But my wife is a champ. Anyone who has met her sees that. Her size doesn't matter. She's a champion.

 

KR: What is the most frustrating or annoying thing people do around you?

BK: There are still derogatory comments made -- not everyone has seen the show. The program hasn't been able to ingrain the perfect terminology. Every single day we go through our process. Even when someone recognizes us from the program, sometimes they do not understand why we are doing it.

It sounds quite horrible, but being four-foot tall, I'm in a good position to have people pat me on the head. I was once in a washroom and went to the sink and before someone got to the sink after coming from a stall he patted me on the head -- he patted me even before washing his hands at the sink. People still think of me as a child and greet me with a pat on the head. I'd like to educate to everyone not to do this. If I never get a pat on the head in a restroom again I'd be a happy man."

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 31, 2014 D3

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