Linda Maye Adams

The World is Built for Tall People and I’m short


The world is built for tall people. 

I’m not really that short.  I’m more average.  My mother was short at 4’11.  But sometimes I think the rest of the world forgets that not everyone is 6 foot tall with long legs.

When I was in the army, the leadership always seemed to expect everyone to be able to match the pace of the tallest guy with the longest legs.  We’d have formations of hundreds of runners, and the leadership always put these really tall guys at the front.  One of their steps equaled three of mine.  Exactly who was getting the true workout?

But then the world is built for tall people.

When I went to Desert Storm in 1990, the women were created with China Beach style showers.  Essentially, the military built an outdoor stall and plopped a 500 gallon tank on it.  A lever on the bottom of the tank is pulled down to dispense the water.  Even if I hopped up and down (and possibly created an unintentional show for the guys), I couldn’t reach it.  I finally had to take off my shower shoe, and hooked the strap over the lever.

And if you think this is a problem for women, one of the male sergeants was my height.  He had to stand on his metal shaving bowl.

Ah, but the world is built for tall people.

I went to Wisconsin for my grandmother’s funeral and got a rental car from the airport.  It looked like it was car that would be designed for people with shorter legs, because it was a pretty small car.  Only one small problem: the cup holder.  For whatever reason, they had it so far back that the only way it could be used safely was if you were six feet tall.  To use it, I had reach my arm completely behind me and feel for where the cup holder was.  Very poor design.  Made me wonder if anyone actually tested the car with consumers.

I know it’s impossible to design for all types of people.  But there tends to be a default, and also, often a lack of understanding that someone else might have a different experience.  A lot of times, it’s just an extra step to make one more adjustment, to make sure everyone could benefit.  That shower handle could have had a chain on it.  That cup holder could have been put in a more standard place.  My father is color blind, and you’d be surprised at how many engineers don’t think about it when they design something.  When he went to Wisconsin, he had trouble with the street lights because they’re sideways.  He couldn’t tell what color they were!

When we live in our own skin, it’s easy to forgot that what’s easy and natural for us might be an impediment to another person.

From a prompt on The Daily Post

Today, write about any topic you feel like — but you must reuse your opening line (at least) two more times in the course of your post.

6 Comments

  1. Pearl R. Meaker

    Hi Linda,

    I’m also short, so I can really relate to this post. I’m somewhere around 5 feet tall – somewhere around because I’m not sure if I’ve started shrinking yet.

    I have trouble with the height relation between chairs and tables. I don’t remember it being such a problem when I was in my twenties, but now I always look like I need a booster seat. The tabletops are often between my chin and my bustline.

    Chairs and sofas are a problem. The seats are too deep from the front edge to the back edge. I often need two pillows behind my back just to have the edge of the seat at the bend of my knees. Otherwise, the edge of the seat hits me somewhere on my calf instead of the behind my knee making my feet stick out.

    I’ve known a couple of color blind men and every time I see those sideways traffic light bars I think of that issue.

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    • I find that when I sit in an office chair, I always have to adjust it or switch out the chairs. Really, one’s feet needs to actually touch the ground! Otherwise I look like a little kid in a chair that’s too big for me.

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  2. I used to be tall at 5’1 1/4″ 🙂 Now I’m about 4’11 1/2″ and I completely identify with you. Sigh. I’ve climbed grocery shelves, begged help from the nearest tall person (usually very kind) and lamented my lack of length most of my life. But–I’m surrounded mostly by tall people in my family who are willing to reach stuff for me, even while they’re laughing 🙂

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  3. Tall can be a problem too. I can not tell you how many times I hit my head and light switches put into a house for a short person or done by a short person. I understand your problem. My husband is 6’3 and tends to make things high. The shower, for instant, was put up too high so we had to purchase an adjustable head. Sometimes I think things are done to that persons size. I have no problem helping people at the stores.

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  1. Daily Prompt: From the Top | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
  2. Hitting the Rail for Raleigh | Linda Maye Adams
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