A left-handed software user's plea

A left-handed software user's plea

Can open source developers open up new opportunities for the left-handed population?

Hands getting washed.
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Left-handed people face many challenges in a right-hand dominated world. For the 10% of us who live under their oppression, it can be maddening. In the early 20th century, my left-handed grandfather was forced to write with his right hand in school, making his handwriting completely illegible. What would great lefties like George H.W. Bush, Bart Simpson, Lt. Cmdr. Data, Barack Obama, or Bill Gates think?

At least we have advanced a little... but not enough!

Every time we work with computers, we suffer under the tyranny of the dexter authorities. We sinisters are subjected to awkward mice, right-sided number pads on keyboards, left-sided USB ports (right where we put our awkward mice), power buttons on the wrong side of the computer, and common keys—such as "delete" and "return"—way across the keyboard. I'm dealing with these hardships as I type this article on my MacBook Pro, and all the ports on my desktop iMac are (in)conveniently located behind the monitor, and yes, on the wrong side.

Left-handed mice are common (although you never hear about "right-handed" mice). I use my mouse on the left side and was surprised to learn that most lefties put the mouse on the right side. I would not even entertain such a sacrilegious notion! Even my browser's cursor taunts me. Its pointy finger accomplice always sticks out its right index finger, mocking me at every hyperlink.

Left right out

Righties even control the robot world. Consider that the Terminator and Robby the Robot shoot with their right hands; Ex Machina's Ava, Bicentennial Man, and the Borg Queen are righties; even the Daleks all seem to be righties. We only have Star Trek's left-handed android, Data, on our side.

I struggle every day with a right-handed can opener, and my cat laughs at me every time I open a can of beans. Scooping ice cream is a waste of time because the activator is on the wrong side. Even shopping at Walmart is terrifying. After rapidly aging in the lengthy checkout line, I approach the payment card portal, only to face a swipe on the wrong side.

Going to the bank is no picnic either. As I stand at the teller window, ready to fill out my deposit slip, I find the pen chained to the right side. Going to the ATM offers no solace. All the keypads and money dispensers are on the wrong side.

My own house poses untold dangers. When I start my lawnmower, I have to pull the cord from the right side. My circular saw cuts only on the right side. My barn door opens to the right, as does my mailbox. The microwave and toaster are all operated from the right side, but, oddly enough, the vacuum cleaner is left-footed. My refrigerator impedes progress to my refreshments by placing the door on the right side, and even the lid on the coffee pot opens to the wrong side. I won't even get into the scissor situation.

Three-ring binders are a three-ring circus for my people. At work, I used to endure a job-tracking system housed in a big, red, three-ring binder. I couldn't write in it. The only way I could use it was to open the rings—releasing 20 years of papers onto the floor—to record my entry. Faced with that daunting challenge, I developed an online job-tracking system using Google Sheets, Google Calendar, and Basecamp3. Equally oppressive to both sinisters and dexters.

Product designers and user experience engineers should consider the left-handed population in their designs and make their products usable for the oppressed masses. User diagrams and instructions should consider that lefties will also use their products.

Can open source rescue us from right-hand domination?

I started searching for left-handed open source gadgets and software, and I came up... empty-handed. I happened upon the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard, which, at first glance, appears to solve some of the hardships we face. Alas, even though its maker says it's "a fully programmable, impeccably built, open source, split mechanical keyboard designed for extreme productivity and ergonomics," all the website's visuals are righty-centric, and three of its four add-on modules are "designed for the right side of the keyboard." Sorry, not ergonomic for my people.

I still believe the open source community can address these problems and bring equality to the people. We need a left-centric user interface in every piece of software and hardware. The time has come to rise up and demand equality, to walk hand-in-hand with our dexter overlords, and to never again suffer the indignities of writing at a right-handed desk or losing an arm-wrestling match against Robby the Robot.

August 13 is International Left Handers Day. Mark your calendar, for that is the day we will raise our left hands and declare: "We have been right all along!"

About the author

Jeff Macharyas - Jeff Macharyas is the Director of Marketing at Corning Community College in New York. He is a writer, graphic designer and communications director who has worked in publishing, higher education and project management for many years. He has been the art director for Quick Printing, The American Spectator, the USO's OnPatrol, Today's Campus, and other publications as well as a telephone pole design engineer contractor. Jeff is certified in Google Analytics and Adobe Visual Design and holds...