On Being Left Handed

Disclosure: I am left-handed. I throw left-handed on a Brent C pottery wheel.

my left handI feel left-handed people should be given ADA protection. We are probably one of the last unorganized minorities in our society because we are not given a sense of common identity. We seem to function well enough, and no real American wants to be called disabled. But I think we should have ADA protection in order to have access to tools and equipment made for left-handers, without exorbitantly higher costs.

Left-handers are often discriminated against. There’s the social discrimination (‘He’s just clumsy’), the educational discrimination (desks attached to chairs, pencil sharpeners, standardized tests, etc. are made for right handed people), and discrimination from religious institutions.

Even our language set the left-hander apart as “different” and even “bad”. (The Latin word for left is sinister. That has morphed into the English word, sinister, which has some scary evil implications.)

Most right handed people and many left-handers believe that being left-handed today doesn’t matter. That being left-handed it is somehow just cute, or is similar to eye color differences: interesting but not very relevant.

Some people feel that to prevent problems of being left handed, one should just start using their right hand. Studies have shown that this forcing right-handedness tends to cause, or further promotes, troubles such as learning disorders, dyslexia, stuttering, and other speech disorders in children.

Being left handed is a biological brain processing issue between the two hemispheres. It's called "atypical brain asymmetry”. Being left handed is still there even if you think you were “trained out of it” years ago.

So why do I think it is important that left-handed people have rights under ADA?

We have more accidents than the average right-handed person, maybe because we are facing a hostile right-handed world. Whether or not we left-handed people acknowledge it, we are merely coping with physical limitations in the world.

Studies have shown that left-handed people tend to be more fearful than right-handed people. That doesn’t surprise me. We are facing a hostile right-handed world where tools tend to hurt us, badly! Add that to an active imagination due to the atypical brain asymmetry and we have some great big fears.

I handle steak knives, saws, angle grinders, weed whackers and all sorts of machinery that all turn in the direction to hurt me first. Right-handers using the same tools don’t need to have that highly honed fear because the turning action generally first moves away from their hands, feet and other extremities. Don’t believe me? Pick up a weed whacker and use it with your left hand, on your left side. On the right hand side, the weed whacker flings weeds out away from you. Use a weed whacker on the left side and you’ll find the weeds and rocks are being flung directly at your legs and feet. That gets a little painful and scary at times. A pottery wheel can be set to spin for left handed people, why can't a weed whacker?

The same experiment with a serrated-on-one-side steak knife will show you the danger of a simple eating utensil. The serration of the knife actually causes the knife to slip directly toward your body with left-handed pressure. People with left handers in the house really should consider buying steak knives that have serrated edges on both sides, not just one. Let's support the manufacturers who care about the safety of left handed people!

Studies have also shown that left-handed people tend to be angrier than right-handed people. That doesn’t surprise me, either. When we aren’t dealing with outright dangerous tools, we are dealing with tools, and attitudes, that frustrate us at the below consciousness level.

Try picking up a manual can opener and turning the knob with your left hand. Don't give up until you've opened a can and see how fast you lose your cool. Now do it with some one standing by, snickering at your “incompetence”. The jokester may think they are just being funny. A left-handed person may be conditioned to “take it” and laugh it off. But imagine you face those types of annoyances and jokes on a daily basis, several times a day, and you won’t have to wonder why there’s some fast anger in left handed people. I'm not condoning violence here, but I sure understand the cause of anger.

Here's a simple example. When I was younger, I bought a coffee mug for a cute saying. The only time I got to see that saying was when I washed the mug by hand. I never got to see the cuteness while using the mug because the saying was directed away from my eyes when I held it. Every time I used that mug, I felt cheated. Now that I'm older,  I ask, "Why wasn't there a left handed mug made for me?" It really doesn't cost anything to turn 10% of the cups* in the opposite direction during printing.   

That’s why I custom make my mugs and yarn bowls to accommodate left handed people, when I know the handedness of the person.  And I don’t charge extra for the service. To me, it is insulting to be charged extra for the same item as a right-handed person’s item - just because I am made differently than a right-handed person. In my eyes, it is the same as charging extra because a person has different skin color. And that is morally abhorrent to me.

That’s why I wish left-handedness were covered under the ADA and the ADA design standards. Not only are left handed people dying off years earlier than right handed people, but the years we live are filled with constant small insults and highly probable injuries just because we are made a bit differently from the rest of the human race. 

* It has been estimated that around 10% of the population is left handed.