Left Handed: Bad science and bad attitudes are the problem, not the left hand

As I state in the first item I posted today, the bias against and forced hand switching of left handed children is the original “reparative therapy”, a form of emotional, physical and mental abuse.  If you’re against “reparative therapy” being imposed upon LGBTQIA people, why aren’t you against it being imposed upon left handed children? (And if you aren’t against “reparative therapy”, what’s wrong with you?)

Left handedness is natural and almost certainly genetic.  Even if it is not genetic and a matter of choice, how is it harmful to a child?  Violence and abuse are the harm.  Let kids be.

Below the fold are three sections.  The first is on good science and positive news items, enlightened minds and unbiased articles.  The second is on bad science, with some commentary from me.  The this are reports of abuses that left handed children are subjected to.

Science and News Articles On Left Handedness

Quackery is often what happens when “science” based on personal beliefs rather than collecting facts.  Lysenkoism, phrenology, and “left handed criminals” all spawn from the same ignorance.

History of Handedness – Recent History

But discriminatory practices and attitudes against left-handers persisted well into the 20th Century. At mid-century, eminent American psychoanalyst Abram Blau was still suggesting that left-handedness was merely due to perversity and the result of emotional negativism, on a par with a child’s obstinate refusal to eat everything on its plate. As adults, Blau asserted, left-handers became stubborn, rebellious, rigid and (for some reason) obsessed with cleanliness. Around the same time, the influential British educational psychologist Cyril Burt was also describing left-handers as “stubborn and willful” as well as “awkward” and “clumsy”.

It was only in the Post-War years, under the influence of John Dewy’s progressive education movement, that a certain amount of tolerance for individual differences and non-conformity developed. But, even then, indeed as late as the 1960s and 1970s, Catholic school teachers in particular routinely inflicted corporal punishment and psychological pressure on left-handed students, ranging from accusations of being in cahoots with the Devil to, bizarrely, being Communist.

Soviet bloc countries continued to maintain strict policies against left-handedness that persisted well into the 1970s. Spain, Italy, Yugoslavia and the Iron Curtain countries all made right-handed writing compulsory in school. In Albania, left-handedness was actually declared illegal and was punishable as a crime.

Even in the relatively open-minded and informed society of today, parents and teachers may encourage a left-handed child to switch out of the best of motives, such as a genuine desire to make their lives easier in a largely right-handed world. The children themselves may impose their own peer pressure to conform to majority norms, and a good percentage of natural left-handers tell of their own self-inflicted attempts to switch hands during childhood.

The Lancet’s article describes the damaged caused by unfounded and baseless opinions about left handedness.

Retraining the King’s left hand

For the Zulus of South Africa, eating with the left hand was taboo. “If a child should eat porridge with its left hand”, wrote British anthropologist Dudley Kidd in 1906, “the people place both of the hands of the child into the hot porridge as an object lesson”. Kidd explained that for the Zulus “the left hand is used for mean purposes, such as scraping away dirt, and so it must not be used for other purposes”. Like the Zulus, many north and east African peoples attempted to “cure” left-handedness. Similar practices have been identified by anthropologists in many other indigenous cultures. There were, however, exceptions. Writing in the American Anthropologist in 1898, Daniel Brinton found tolerance towards left-handers in Native American cultures. Others have pointed to similar acceptance by the Arrernte people of central Australia. Thus, a complicated picture emerges in which early human cultures, like current ones, reveal ambivalence towards left-handedness, suggesting that suppression of left-handedness serves specific cultural agendas.


According to psychologist Lauren J Harris, by the second decade of the 20th century, a number of educators began to suspect that the practice of retraining left-handers had negative life-long consequences, especially resulting in stuttering among the retrained. Three studies of thousands of south London school children by J P Ballard were published in an obscure pedagogical journal in 1911–12, but these findings received wide exposure in the influential 1914 textbook, The Hygiene of the School Child, by Stanford University psychologist Lewis M Terman. Based on his examination of Ballard’s data, Terman concluded that a third to half “of the stuttering among London school children is produced in the effort to make right-handed children out of those who are normally left-handed”. This evidence, Terman told his readers, proved that “left-handed children should remain left-handed” and that “the slight advantages that accrue from the change are entirely outweighed by the dangers to speech”.

Many points in this article are reminiscent of experiences I’ve seen with children in South Korea, Taiwan, and elsewhere.

Why Asian Parents Force Their Kids to Be Right-Handed

I can vividly remember the euphoria that came with gripping a fresh set of crayons, each color filling the void of blank papers with strokes I thought were genius. The world was at my fingertips, and with school starting the following year, I was ready to write my name.

There’s just one problem: I had been using my left hand.

Coming from a Chinese-Filipino family, this was a big no-no. My recollection from one day in summer when I was forced to use my right hand to write “Carl” was all fuzzy, save for a long, wooden stick that struck my left hand every time I tried to help myself.

Eventually, I spent more time practicing. I have no idea how long it took before I fully adjusted, but today I can tell that this sentence was typed by my right hand. I had been converted.


This irrational suspicion has apparently dissipated much more quickly in the West, where businesses are now looking into the untapped market that is the lefty’s needs. In London, a store called Anything Left-Handed sprung in 1968 to sell just as its name says; San Francisco’s Lefty’s opened 10 years later.

Unfortunately, lefties seem to have far more troubles if they live in Asia, where superstitious beliefs somehow survive in households with breakneck internet speeds. In South Korea, for instance, left-handedness has long been associated with impurity — giving or receiving items must be accomplished by the right or both hands.

Anything coming out of the mass murdering dictatorship (MMD, aka PRC) is dubious, but this might have some merit.

Left-handed people ‘no longer hiding’ in right-handed world

Before entering the subway, Lin Pan swiped his transit card on the machine, only to have the gate next to him open-a common nuisance he encounters as a left-hander.

“We are living in a world for right-handers,” Lin said. “The shutter on the camera is on the right, the mouse of the computer, the accelerator of a vehicle, the design of scissors-all these are mostly based on the habits of right-handers.”

He started a website, Left-Handed China (zuopiezi.org), in 2013 to speak for his fellow lefties. The website posts articles and research on left-handedness and collects complaints from left-handed people.


“My teacher used to try to force me into using my right hand, and I often feel nervous when I deal with changes in my life,” Lin said.

Even now, Lin sometimes receives calls from parents concerned about their kids’ “unusual” habits.

“Some parents call me and say their children experience a lot of inconveniences at school. I persuade them to give up the idea of correcting their kids’ left-handed habits,” he said.

From Smithsonian Magazine:

Two-Thirds of the World Still Hates Lefties

There are still some pretty annoying things about being left-handed. But in America, at least, we’ve mostly stopped forcing lefties to learn to use their right hand. That’s not the case everywhere, though. China, for example, claims that less than one percent of students are left-handed. If that were true, it would be strange: the global average of lefties comes in at 10-12 percent. A study in the journal Endeavor recently took on this question: Why are there no left-handers in China? The researchers also looked at India and Islamic countries and discovered that nearly two-thirds of the world’s lefty population faces discrimination.

There’s nothing special about the genetics of people living in China that makes them less likely to be lefties. Chinese-Americans are just as likely to be left handed as any other Americans. The lefties in China are actually switching their dominant hands. Why? Because it’s simply more difficult for them to stick with their naturally dominate hand than for people in Europe of the United States. Many Chinese characters require a right hand, says Discovery News.

Elsewhere, stigma against lefties still exists. Discovery News reports:

In many Muslim parts of the world, in parts of Africa as well as in India, the left hand is considered the dirty hand and it’s considered offensive to offer that hand to anyone, even to help. The discrimination against lefties goes back thousands of years in many cultures, including those of the West.

Even though violence in Japan against left handed chilren has abated, the mental and emotional intimidation to conform remains.

Lefties push back against Japan’s ‘righteous’ spin

Takeshi Hatta, professor of neuropsychology at Kansai University of Welfare Sciences, said parents used to resort to methods such as putting hot pepper on a child’s left hand or tying it up, but studies show that the practice of changing children’s handedness was no longer the norm in Japan by the 1970s.

But that doesn’t mean it has entirely disappeared.

In an online questionnaire on southpaws conducted by The Japan Times in the lead-up to International Left-Handers Day on Monday, respondents included several Japanese in their 20s who said they were told by parents and teachers to write and eat with their right hand.


But whether or not they are free to use their dominant hand, left-handers have to live in a world where a great many devices are designed for right-handers. These range from pens, spiral notebooks and scissors to wristwatches, vending machines and ticket gates.

Seventy-two percent of all respondents said they feel inconvenienced when using such items.

The stationery store in Sagamihara responds to their needs with about 100 types of goods customized for lefties, including ladles, can openers, rulers, pencil sharpeners, playing cards and Japanese teapots.

As I stated elsewhere, some regions are more enlightened than others when it comes to left handedness.

Rates of Left-Handedness: Downs and Ups

Rates of left-handedness vary by region of the world and even by region within countries. Population studies indicate that more left-handers reside in North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand than in South America. Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States show regional differences in the incidence of left-handedness. For example, Italians living in the north of Italy are more likely to be left-handed than those living in the south. The rates of left-handedness rise as one moves from the eastern European countries to those in the west of the continent. One can expect to find more left-handers in France than in Russia, for example.

There are historical as well as geographical fluctuations in the prevalence of left-handedness. Substantial archaeological evidence indicates that the two types of human handedness, right and left, have existed for millennia. Through the centuries, right-handedness has remained the majority human handedness type with left-handedness continuing as a consistent minority presence of about 10%. However, there was a drop in the prevalence of left-handedness in the 19th century when rates fell to historic lows of 2-4% of the population. What accounted for this precipitous reduction in rates of left-handedness?

Bad Science

LF Meng is a quack.  He describes the forced hand switching and abuse of children as “handeness conversion”.  I call it reparative therapy and child abuse.
The rate of handedness conversion and related factors in left-handed children.
Meng LF1.
Department of Occupational Therapy, Institute of Clinical Behavioral Science, Chang Gung University, Tao-Yuan, Taiwan. lfmeng@mail.cgu.edu.tw
The rate of handedness conversion was 2.7% to 11.8% in prior studies based on the total population including innately right-handed people. However, the conversion rate of innately left-handed people has not been reported. The purpose of this study was to investigate the percentage of handedness conversion in children who are innately left-handed.

The claim of “Tunisian right-hand writers, although they probably included some children who might not have been right-handed without the cultural pressure, were not less consistent than French right-hand writers” comes without evidence, and very likely a bias that right handedness is “normal” while left handedness isn’t.

Cultural influences on the development of lateral preferences: a comparison between French and Tunisian children.
Fagard J1, Dahmen R.
Laboratoire Cognition et Développement, CNRS, UMR-8605, 71 avenue Edouard Vaillant, 92774 Boulogne Billancourt Cedex, France. fagard@psycho.univ-paris5.fr

These results may indicate that cultural pressure influences handedness at an early age, perhaps by leading towards right-handedness in children whose genetic background might otherwise have induced a chance-determined pattern of handedness.

I don’t question this BioMedSearch item or its conclusions.  What I do question is the faulty and uneducated claim that “left handed people die younger.”  while ignoring the fact that in decades past, left handed children were regularly abused (forced hand switching).  There are “fewer left handers” amongst 60+ year old people because they were forced to switch.  Those natural left handers are still alive, but are erroneously being counted as right handers, skewing the percentages of both groups.

Left-handedness and mortality

We examined mortality associated with handedness in two ways. A simulation using national data suggests that lower mean age at death among left-handed persons, previously offered as evidence of higher mortality, can be explained exclusively by the age distribution of laterality. Second, empiric evidence from a 6-year cohort study of 3774 older adults from East Boston, Massachusetts, demonstrates that left-handedness is not associated with mortality (relative odds = 1.04, 95% confidence interval = 0.79, 1.36).

In 1935, a buffoon by the name of J.W. Conway wrote a piece of unscientific garbage entitled, “The Prevention And Correction of Left-Handedness In Children”, with the subtitle, ““On Curing the Disability and Disease of Left-Handedness”.

In 1924, another inept individual named William Inman  publishe The Mental Sorrows of Left-Handedness,  (1924)by Dr. William. S. Inman was published as an article in The Lancet on the causes of left-handedness, stammer, and squint, labelling left handedness a “disease”.

Stories of Abuse Against Left Handed Children

In 2014, Jon McCourt told the Historical Abuse Inquiry about abuse he suffered at the hands of nuns. Children of catholic parents could not attend public schools due to sectarianism, giving the catholics free reign over their victims.

Historical Abuse Inquiry: Boy punished for being ‘left-handed’

Jon McCourt, a high profile campaigner to get the inquiry set up, has waived his right to anonymity.

He also told the inquiry that he did not realise two other boys in a photograph were his brothers.

The inquiry is investigating abuse claims against children’s residential institutions in NI from 1922 to 1995.


He told the inquiry on Thursday: “I remember, when I was about five years old, being constantly beaten by one particular nun, to get me to stop writing with my left hand.”

He said this was a common practice at the time before adding: “They were messing up with how we were wired.”

“Jim” (not the man’s real name) gave a statement to the Australian government’s investigation into sexual abuses. Jim was a child in the 1950s, and was subjected to physical, emotional and sexual abuse by a teacher. Jim suspects the fact that he is left handed provided his abused the exuse.

Jim’s story

Jim was singled out and victimised by his primary school teacher, Mr Richardson, for no reason other than he happened to be left-handed.

‘If he saw me writing left-handed’, Jim told the Commissioner, ‘he’d pull my hand over the edge of the desk, and he had a three-foot ruler with a metal edge in it – a dozen times over the knuckles’.

It was the mid-1950s and Jim was nine years old. For the next three years he endured increasingly violent attacks from Mr Richardson. One sweltering day, Richardson ‘decided he was going to punish me a bit further’. The teacher dragged Jim out of the classroom, told him to take off his shoes and socks and then tied him to the flagpole in the hot sun. ‘And my toes could just touch the hot bitumen. He left me up there for an hour.’

I strongly suspect that while left handedness was hated by religious fanatics, they viewed and used it as a pretext for violence against children who could easily be “blamed for their own acts”.

The Children Who Were Beaten By Religious Leaders For Being Left Handed

I recently spent time with a woman from the United Kingdom who is a vocal human rights advocate. As I was listening to her deliver her talking points, mostly in defense of women, LGBT people and immigrants, she touched on a topic that specifically piqued my attention- something I had been entirely oblivious too, but actually existed until the late 70’s.

We’ll call her Mary. Mary was enrolled in a Methodist school at the age of 3. It was a pre-school, prior to entry to kindergarten where teachers would mold the young children to behave in a fashion that was appropriate to their religious doctrine.

Part of the standard discipline during those formative years meant reprimanding children for being left handed. That punishment including beating the left hands of children with objects such as canes, sticks, even slamming books onto their fingers in order to “train” them to use their right hand, not only write with, but conduct any activity with, including throw a ball, play an instrument, raise their hand to respond to a question, use a food utensil or even shake hands. To use your left hand was considered a cardinal sin. An indication of a tainted soul.


What occurred in religiously aligned schools in the 60’s was nothing more than state sanctioned abuse. It was an openly expressed intolerance for children- and adults- whose persuasion was to write with their left hand. To compound the senseless beatings, typically in front of their peers, they were isolated, publicly humiliated and treated as lessers by comparison to right-handed students.
Mary explains this abuse lasted years. She was forced to learn to write with her right hand to avoid persecution, and worse, avoid suspicion that her spirit was influence by the forces of evil. Outside the school environment, the local population also applied rigorous stigma to left-handed individuals, both adults and children. Rampant superstition motivated by religious teachings provoked fear of left-handed people within their communities. Engaging with a left handed individual was perceived as bad luck. Unconsciously using your left hand to point, or even wave was considered a rude gesture and often provoked retaliatory violence.


A rare bright spot: The arrest of a nun after years of abuses she committed.

Another woman arrested over historical child abuse claims at orphanage

Police Scotland said on Friday, a 76-year-old woman has now been charged in connection ‘with the non-recent abuse of children’. Eleven women and one man, aged between 62 and 85, have already been arrested as part of an investigation into the orphanage at the Lanark home which was run by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul until it closed in 1981.


Other accounts of his time at the home include a worker touching boys’ genitals to ‘check’ if they had wet the bed and being beaten for being left-handed. [my emphasis]


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    These articles conspicuously omit a major point: what’s the current status of left-handers in Islamic societies, where their Holy Book® itself demands right-handedness?

  2. says

    I was born in 1992. In the society where I grew up, left-handedness was perceived as a non-issue, so I assumed that the only inconveniences left-handed people face are caused by lack of tools made specifically for them. Somehow I just assumed that abuse was a thing of the past. I wasn’t aware that abuse exists even nowadays in 21st century.

    I’m naturally right-handed. About a year ago I started feeling pain in my right hand, and the prospect of getting repetitive strain injury freaked me out. I’m an artist, so I cannot afford hand injury. At that point I switched to using my left hand for all daily tasks. I now use my right hand only for writing and drawing/painting. It turned out that learning to use my non-dominant hand for all the simple tasks that do not require that much dexterity was surprisingly easy. It took me less than two weeks to become comfortable with using my left hand for manipulating the computer mouse. Pushing buttons or eating with my non-dominant hand was even easier. But writing or drawing, now that’s an entirely different matter. My left-handed handwriting might be legible, but it’s awfully ugly. I feel sorry for all those people who are forced to write with their non-dominant hand. That seriously sucks. Using right-handed scissors with my left hand also sucks.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    I’m a leftie and stutterer whose primary and secondary schooling was split between England (1960-68) and Canada (68-73). No-one ever tried to retrain my handedness in either country (possibly by sheer luck!), but I sure got a lot of nonsense about the stuttering. And historically, I think the “retraining” for stutterers could be every bit as drastic as for lefties.

    In and around eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe, surgical interventions for stuttering were recommended, including cutting the tongue with scissors, removing a triangular wedge from the posterior tongue, and cutting nerves, or neck and lip muscles. Others recommended shortening the uvula or removing the tonsils. All were abandoned due to the high danger of bleeding to death and their failure to stop stuttering.

    Re the link between retraining left handers and stuttering; the passage you quote lacks context. Later, one reads

    Although, like Clark, most experts no longer see a direct cause and effect between hand switching and the aetiology of stuttering, they nevertheless oppose forcing left-handers to convert to right-handed writing. But well into the 1970s, according to Canadian psychologist Stanley Coren, children attending Catholic parochial schools were “routinely” forced “to write with the right hand”. Reporting on their investigations of adults, psychologist Clare Porac and colleagues found that attempts to switch left-handers were common in North America in the 1980s. Despite the “early and impressive statistical reports”, Harris, writing in 1990, concluded that the evidence that retraining caused stuttering was weak. Still, he admitted that we “know little more on this question [than] in the 1930s” because studies since then “have ignored the question of hand training and have focused on the broader question whether speech disorders are more common in left-handers generally”. We do not know if the onset of King George’s childhood stuttering was connected to his forced hand switching, but the reawakened interest in his speech disability may give rise to new investigations that may help shed light on an association that seemed so persuasive in the 1930s.

    So, not quite as clear cut.

    • says

      My sperm and egg donors (“parents”) and public school teachers until grade four attempted the abuse of “hand switching”. But I would attribute my severe childhood stammer more to the two being abusive and to severe bullying at school.

      Now I do public speaking and teach for a living, though I still have to dress “male” at work.

  4. Trickster Goddess says

    My former partner was born right handed, but converted to left handedness in her 20s after having an anyeurism that partially paralyzed her right side. When we got our first computer with a mouse in the 1990s, I got quickly tired of switching the mouse to the other side after she used it and just left it on the left side of the keyboard and got used to it. Later I learned graphic design and when I am drawing with a mouse I am much better using my left hand, but when I draw or write by hand I use my right hand.

    I continue to practice ambidexterity by using my left hand when doing non-essential writing like when doing a crossword puzzle. Also when I do hand drumming I’ll practice the rhythms both right-handed and left-handed.

    • says

      Was the desk not big enough for two mice? ^_^ Myself, I use the mouse with the right. Most hot keys are under left hand and can be done one handed (Ctrl/Alt/Shift + ZXCVBNASDFGHQWERTY). I can type the entire keyboard left handed, keeping the right only on the mouse.

      There are a lot of high profile lefty drummers. Most reverse the kit, but some play traditionally (e.g. Stewart Copeland). But unlike most instruments, it doesn’t require specialized equipment.


      Even with synthesizers, are they any keyboardists who switch the instrument (low to high RTL)? It could be done, but centuries of “tradition” (instrument design and training) make it almost impossible.

      • Trickster Goddess says

        The desk was big enough but, alas, there was only one serial port to plug into. I actually find mousing left handed to be more ergonomic in some ways: When you are sitting at the keyboard, centered on the letter keys, the mouse is further away on the right — out past the navigation keys and the num pad — and thus you have reach further and at more of an angle from your body. I also find that when I have to do a lot of clicking, it is less strain to repeatedly left click with my middle finger than with my index finger.

        I play djembe so the setup is the same either way but the handedness comes from most traditional West African rhythms being constructed following the convention of playing the first beat of the bar with your dominant hand (whichever one that is). I practice playing the pattern reversed so my non-dominant hand plays the downbeat. This helps to better master the rhythm and sometimes provides physical relief as some rhythms are rather lopsided with 3 hits by one hand for every hit with the other hand.

  5. Ridana says

    One place where lefties are welcomed and valued is baseball, especially southpaw pitchers. Is it similar for cricket?

    • says

      Inexpert opinion here: Cricket doesn’t have a side, so I doubt handedness matters at all. There is no foul territory, bowlers can throw from either side of the opposing wicket, and batsmen do not have a fixed foot position (unlike baseball) so they can face a bowler at any angle they want. Somebody should ask Mano Singham.

      A lefty hitter in baseball has several advantages. After swinging, a lefty is facing first base (a righty faces third) and is about six feet closer, making it easier to run out a grounder. Most hitters pull, so there’s one less infielder on the right (no SS), and runners on second and third are running away from the ball, increasing the chances of RBIs, and improving batter’s averages – historically they hit roughly 0.020 points higher every year. Righties hit towards more players, and runners on first and second are running toward the ball, making them easier outs. Of the twenty players with the most RBIs ever, six were lefty hitters and Eddie Murray was a switch hitter. Thirty one of the top fifty batting average leaders hit left handed (and 26 of batters 51-100). It should be only 10% by statistical averages.



      Outfielder handedness doesn’t matter, but with infielders it does. The only “lefty” infield position is first base – you want to face home plate after catching a throw. The others need to be righties so they can throw to second and first, not have to turn their bodies. Lefty catchers are unicorns – Benny Distefano is the only known left handed catcher (or the only one I can find) to play any games in MLB history. He played 3 in 1989.

      As for pitchers, teams want their staff to be 50/50. A team will pick an slightly inferior lefty over a righty simply to have options. When you can only pitch from one side, teams can load up their batting orders.

  6. Ridana says

    I don’t care enough about cricket to sit down and try to suss out all the rules and strategies, but this graphic of fielding positions from Wiki indicates that it’s reversed if the batter is left-handed. The diagram itself is indecipherable to me, so I don’t know if that means the fielders all rearrange themselves for lefties or what, but it does seem to matter in some way. 🙂

  7. lumipuna says

    Andreas Avester – I think I’m more strictly right-handed than what you describe.

    Last winter, I broke my right arm in a way that wouldn’t have been fully treatable without modern medicine. During recovery, I learned to appreciate my left arm/hand in a whole new way, but it was still distinctly clumsy and didn’t seem to be getting better with practice. I was never left totally one-handed, but during early recovery my life was difficult enough with a clumsy left arm/hand and a mostly nonfunctional right arm/hand.

    In historical times, my right arm would’ve been left permanently more or less crippled. With the traditional stigma against using left hand, I’m not sure if it were worse if one was actually left-handed.

  8. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    At a Baptist elementary school in Ontario, in the mid 80’s, I had a few teachers who tried very hard to “correct” my left-handedness, with varying degrees of abuse. It did not work. The worst of them, Ms. Grieve, worked at the school until the late 90’s and I am sure she never stopped trying to “save” students from the evils of left-handedness. Truly a terribly woman, convinced she was doing god’s work.

    Given the choice though, I prefer to use the mouse with my right-hand. The left is much better suited for using the keyboard or taking written notes while scrolling through specs or contracts. And for gaming, I think its an advantage to be quicker and more precise on the WASD keys then a righty.

  9. says

    My mother hates how the mouse is always placed on the left side of my table (she occasionally uses my computer). Theoretically, the table would have enough room for two mice, but nah, it’s not my problem that another person is annoyed by something I do.

    lumipuna @#7

    I suspect that it was relatively easy for me to learn to be partially ambidextrous, because I’m an artist. On top of that, I have spent a lot of time practicing calligraphy. Thus my overall dexterity was probably above average to begin with. Compared to art or calligraphy, simple tasks like using a computer mouse are relatively easy.

  10. Ridana says

    I’m kind of baffled by the War of the Mice people are describing here. A keyboard and a mouse/pad take up the same amount of desk space regardless of which side the latter is on. It takes about 10 seconds to pick up the mouse/pad, slide the keyboard over, and put down the mouse/pad. So whoever the computer belongs to gets to choose the default side, and borrowers can take 10 seconds to swap if they feel they must (lessons learned from toilet seat etiquette may be applicable). The owner also gets to choose the function of left and right mouse buttons. Borrowers can cope temporarily.
    For a variety of reasons, I often find myself mousing with my left hand, and I’ve never had a problem remembering that a right click is still on the right side, and clicking it with my middle finger instead of my index. (all of this swapping is easier with a Bluetooth mouse rather than a tailed one)
    I’m also a little puzzled by the perceived “handedness” of the keyboard itself. Since using a keyboard isn’t exactly intuitive in the first place — i.e., you have to spend some time learning to type and where the various keys are — it seems to me that whether you are left or right handed, you’d just learn to use the keyboard as it exists. There’s nothing in our DNA that says the Return key should be pressed with our dominant hand. Had the keyboard originally been designed with Return on the left side, I’m sure I’d have learned that with no difficulty.
    There are other keyboard arrangements besides QWERTY, and people sufficiently motivated to learn them don’t have problems learning them or suffer from doing so. And now we have software that lets you assign any key to any function you want. When my R key temporarily stopped working, I reassigned the 4 key to be R, and the f4 key to be 4. It was a little awkward for a couple of days, and then no worries. So I guess if it’s really a problem, you can just rearrange your own keyboard, and even swap out the physical key covers if you want to.
    This is one area I’m not seeing what the issue is, so what am I overlooking through my righty glasses?

    • says

      There’s nothing in our DNA that says the Return key should be pressed with our dominant hand. […] This is one area I’m not seeing what the issue is, so what am I overlooking through my righty glasses?

      That’s right handed privilege talking. “Our”? Most people’s, not our. I may use the mouse in the right hand, unlike most lefties, but when I type one handed with the left, I hit Return with my left thumb.

      Why should one left handed person, who buys a computer for their own use, have to accomodate right handed people? As Trickster Goddess noted, their computer had only a single serial port, thus only one mouse. They and their partner were inconvenienced by insufficient ports and difficult to change settings on a computer, forced to change the mouse’s behaviour each time the other wanted to use it.

      I’ve seen people get bothered because I enabled the Right-To-Left option on my android phone. Seeing a calendar that says SFTWTMS and numbers “7 6 5 4 3 2 1” for the date bothers them, as does seeing menus are aligned to the right hand side of the screen. It’s not even their phone, they’re not using it other than when I ask them to take photos, and they don’t like it.

      Try stapling papers in the upper right corner or along the right hand side and see how right handers react when you hand it to them. Upset and annoyed are common responses.

      Left handed people are inconvenienced daily by every facet of mass manufacturing: office equipment (e.g. photocopiers), stationery (e.g. ring bound notebooks), appliances, physical objects (e.g. ATMs, turnstiles), etc. Other than sporting goods, guns and musical instruments, there is almost no accomodation made for left handed people. Car manufacturers design the driver’s seat for the average adult male, not for women. Should women just “put up with it” (i.e. move the seat, add boosters, padding and longer shoes), or should manufacturers accomodate 50% of drivers with better options for seat and pedal positioning? It’s a valid concern.

      If it were just physical objects, that would be one thing, but software does NOT have a physical limitation. In the 2000s when PDAs were popular, scrollbars were on the right hand side, and there was no option to move them to the left. If a PDA was in portrait mode, there was a scrollbar along the bottom. In landscape mode, the portrait mode’s bottom became the left side. Why couldn’t the scrollbar be on the left in landscape mode? This was poor software design, not a physical limitation of the device. If you say it’s not possible, look at your computer’s OS desktop: you can place the status bar on the bottom, top, right or left. How is a status bar different from a scrollbar?

      You will probably respond, “We’re using touch screens, it doesn’t matter anymore!” Actually, it does, for two reasons: One, most text and links are aligned left which means left handed people constantly endure unintended “clicks” on links while trying to scroll a screen; forcing sites and devices to right align text is difficult. Try viewing websites on your phone for an hour, using your left thumb to scroll, and see how many unwanted clicks you get. Two, when viewing galleries and ebook readers, going “forward” requires the left handed person to reach across to the far side of the screen and block their own view, the same problem PDA scrollbars caused when holding a stylus. “Left = forward” and “right = back” could be easily accomplished by swapping two lines of code, but programmers don’t provide it.

      It’s laziness and arrogance in software design, and accomodating left handed is not expensive or difficult. Fewer people need sticky keys than left handed options, yet software designers wouldn’t dare leave them out despite being harder to program. Which of course leads into another problem with lack of left handed options, when software and hardware is exported to other countries….