- Research demonstrates that 10 percent of humanity is left-handed.
- Most of society is built around right-handed organizational systems.
- Neutral designs create an even playing field for both right and left-handed people.
Throughout history, being left-handed has been viewed as alternately sinister, the mark of the devil, or something that should be beaten out of people. It’s kind of awful when you think about the fact that 10 percent of human beings have been consistently left-handed for millennia. There is evidence that even as far back as cavemen times there were Lefties.
According to my left-handed sister, there is an immediate kinship when fellow Lefties meet each other because they have suffered the same annoyances of adapting to a right-handed world throughout their life. From being bumped by diners at tightly set tables to the smudge of ink and graphite on their hands from writing left to right with their left hands. They’re the odd ones out.
While modern myths still abound about them — they’re more likely to be leaders, creative, and right-brained — one thing is true: They have difficulty following left-to-right patterns and systems that are designed for right-handed people. This makes life needlessly harder for Lefties. Life is hard enough as it is. Organization shouldn’t be.
Left-handed folks gravitate to right-to-left systems
Right-handed folks might think, “What’s the big deal? So, their elbows are jostled by others while eating.” But then stop and think about how deeply ingrained left-to-right patterns are in the Western world. One of the most fundamental underpinnings of life is built upon a left-to-right system: reading and writing. All texts, books, scripts, documents, blogs, contracts, financial statements, etc. are a left-to-right system.
A great exercise for right-handed people to understand how difficult it is to use a system that’s counter to one’s brain wiring is simply to write with the left hand. It’s not easy. With practice, it becomes easier. But, rarely (never?) does it become a preference.
Yet, it’s not just the written word that is designed around right-handed people. Doorknobs are usually placed on the left-hand side of doors. People design rooms around right-handed tendencies as well as closets, cupboards, fridges. Lefties adapt but the question is why society makes them adapt when a middle ground exists.
Centered organizational solutions even the playing field
Organization’s raison d’etre in our lives is to create more efficiency and ease. As such, organizers worth their salt build systems around the end users’ tendencies and instincts. Therefore, it follows that shared organizational systems should attempt to be neutral. This is what centered solutions do. They favor neither Lefties nor Righties.
One example of a middle ground is front doorknobs. They don’t need to be on the left. In fact, many a Parisian front door has a center doorknob and bolt. It’s a neutral organizational solution that works for everyone and makes life easier for Lefties.
Implementing neutral solutions isn’t difficult or costly
Whether redesigning an office space to accommodate hot desking — non-reservation-based hoteling — or simply setting up a home with both right-handed and left-handed, consider whether there is a neutral option for communal systems. For example, design desks with a central hub to plug in a laptop or charge a phone. Position a task lamp that can be situated on the left or right. Consider fridge doors that open in the center or lateral filing cabinets with adjustable hanging bars to change up the direction of hanging files. Even something as mundane as which direction hangers hang makes a difference to Lefties.
When in doubt designing shared space, ask a left-handed person how they might organize or design a system. They’ll have an opinion and the neutral solution will likely present itself.
Searing, Linda (August 12, 2019), The Big Number: Lefties make up about 10 percent of the world. Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post.Maica