No Quick Fix: Bias is built into everything

Mass manufacturing is a major problem for left handed people. Very few items outside of musical instruments and sporting goods (or useless junk like guns) are being made specifically for left handed users. Accomodations for the disabled cost far more and benefit fewer people, yet people would file  discrimination suits if there were no accessibility for wheelchair users, the visually impaired, and others with disabilities.

No, left handedness is not a disability, and neither is being a woman.  Is it acceptable that cars are built for the average size male as the driver, not for women?  For pharmaceutical companies to test medicines only on men, leaving women vulnerable to side effects?  Those are wrong and discriminatory towards women, so why isn’t it towards left handed people?

It’s unrealistic to expect left handed versions of large scale and expensive items to be made, such as:

  • photocopiers
  • microwave ovens and other appliances
  • radios (and old televisions with knobs)
  • ATMs at banks
  • turnstiles at stadiums or train stations
  • power tools and industrial equipment

But it is not unreasonable to ask for left handed products that can be made inexpensively and used by 10-14% of all consumers:

  • kitchen knives and utensils
  • stationery (scissors, rulers, pens, geometry sets)
  • notebooks, folders and binders
  • watches (worn on the right arm)
  • computer accessories using USB plugs

Computers are the most egregious example of people’s obliviousness to right hand privilege. I am not talking about hardware, which would require large retooling of factories to make products. I’m talking about software, something which has no physical limitation on how it is produced.

Today, touch screens no longer or rarely use scroll bars. But when they were common such as on PDAs in the 2000s decade, scrollbars were always placed for the benefit of right handed people. There was no patch or option on any device to move scrollbars to the left. In order to use a stylus, a left handed user had to block their own view of the screen. (If you say, “Well, use the stylus in the right hand!”, you have just demonstrated right handed privilege.)  The end of scroll bars does mean the end of the problem.

On all touch screen devices, on e-readers, on facebook and many other websites, to move forward a page or image in a gallery requires touching the side nearest the right hand, Again, this forces left handed users to block their own view of the screen. E-readers were designed to be held one handed (in the right hand) and users tap with their thumb to go forward a page. If a left handed user does the same, the e-reader will go back a page.

Why is there no option to switch this behaviour? This requires changing two lines of code (left=forward, right=back), not rewriting the entire program. (Again, don’t say “use your right hand,” even though I know you want to.) Dozens of hotkeys can be created, deleted and reassigned within most software and browsers, and yet the simplest form of navigation control can not be changed, the form of navigation that needs to be changed for left handed users.

Finally, let’s talk about cellphones, since most people use them nowadays. Last year, before the release of the iphone7, I talked about left handed users of the iphone 3, 4 and 6 getting no reception due to Apple’s poor product design.

Guess what? The iphone7 STILL has this problem, despite Apple being aware of it since 2010, AFTER high profile reports in the media with the iphone6. Apple continues to give the same arrogant response to consumer complaints and news stories: “Use your right hand.”

From (Sept. 2016), about the iphone7:

Left-Handed? You May Not Want to Buy an iPhone

If you’re left-handed, you may want to rethink running out to buy the newest iPhone model. Or buying any iPhone for that matter.

The latest iPhone models, including the SE, 6, 6S, and 6S Plus, have the worst reception of the most popular cell phone models when held in the user’s left hand, according to a report commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers that analyzed cell phone reception. Models like the DORO PhoneEasy 530X, Microsoft Lumina 640, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge performed significantly better.

From (2016), about the iphone6:

Why Some Left-Handed People Are Having Big Problems With the iPhone

From (2010), about the iphone4:

Some iPhone 4 models dropping calls when held left-handed, including ours (Update: Apple responds)

From (2010), apple’s inept response to the above article:

Apple responds to iPhone 4 reception issues: you’re holding the phone the wrong way

Apple responds to iPhone4 reception issues: you’re holding the phone the wrong way
We know what you’re thinking, and we’re thinking it too: this sounds crazy. Essentially, Apple is saying that the problem is how you hold your phone, and that the solution is to change that habit [read: use your right hand – R], or buy one of their cases.


Update: To add a little perspective, check out a video from 2008 after the break showing the same issue with the now-ancient iPhone3G.

Here’s an easier solution: Don’t buy iphones, then you won’t have that problem.

Android phones aren’t much better. True, there are no reports of poor reception when held with the left hand (including my Asus Zenphone). And android does have a left handed option, ***BUT*** it’s buried deep within the software instead of being readily accessible on the phone’s settings and options menus. You have to jump through hoops to find it:

  1. Open “Settings > About Phone”.
  2. Scroll down to “Build Number”.
  3. Tap SEVEN TIMES quickly to enable developer options.
  4. Go back to Main Settings.
  5. Open Developer Options (not visible by default).
  6. Scroll down, enable “Force RTL layout direction”.

Google says it’s updates “won’t change your settings” but that’s not my experience. More than once my Right-To-Left settings have been switched back to right handed mode.