Perspectives: UCI Lacks Accommodations for Left-Handed Students

Left handed people are a small percentage of the world population. Unfortunately, some normal tasks for us left-handers are irritating, because the appliances involved are strictly designed for right-handed people. The most common example of this is scissors, as their handles are molded only to fit the right hand. From my personal experience, using scissors with my left hand is uncomfortable, and the results are disastrous. Like scissors, UCI’s campus is designed mostly for right-handers, and while there is some accommodation for left-handers, it is scarce.

Finding a left-handed folding desk in a lecture hall is like finding a needle in a haystack; you cannot see the orientation of the dozens of folded desks that are inside auditoriums. Thus, a left-handed person would have to know which desks are left-hand friendly ahead of time or settle for a right-handed desk.

During a normal lecture session, it is not a problem that diminishes the process of notetaking or affects the attention span of the student. However, examination periods are especially bothersome because we are pressured to finish the exam within a limited amount of time and have limited space to put our Scantrons, blue books and exam prompts. In these cases, right-handed people have an advantage, because they can see the exam prompt on their laps without any obstruction. This is mainly because the entirety of their writing arm is located on the desk, and they are able to read their exam books with relative ease, whereas a left-handed person must stop writing to read the exam prompt since his or her writing arm is located above the essay prompt.

In this short article, I am not demanding the implementation of a new college infrastructure dedicated to left-handed people. I simply want to share my experiences as a left-hander at UCI. From this, I learned that we must adapt to new conditions. Due to this unexpected adaptation, I am ambidextrous when I eat and can use scissors. Hopefully in the future, I will be able to write clearly with both my hands. However, it would be pleasant to know if UCI acknowledges the struggles that non-right handers face everyday.

Sebastian Suarez is a third-year political science major. He can be reached at ssuarez1@uci.edu.

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The life of a left-handed individual is not an easy one. I would know, because I have been left-handed all my life. Unfortunately, most features of the world have been made for right handed people — scissors, desks and other paraphernalia are always a nightmare for me to use, because I can never orient my fingers correctly. Of course, my left-hand problems did not suddenly disappear when I entered UCI. I still have to scurry to find left-handed desks during class, frantically email professors to reserve designated seats for me during exams, or figure out how to use the scissors in the library without cutting myself.

As a youngster, I did not know being left-handed was a disadvantage. I always wondered why it took me longer to learn how to use scissors or why, as I colored a picture, my hand would end up being inked rather than the paper. But I never believed that my problems were a result of being disadvantaged; I just thought I was an incompetent individual.

As I grew older, I became aware of my difference. I would often hear people exclaim, “Oh my God! You are left handed. How cool!” or “Woah, you write with your left hand!”

“Of course, I write with my left hand!” I often thought. “I mean is there any other way to write?” I soon realized that there was, and that my way was actually the anomaly.

Right-handed people are prioritized in every setting — seats often cater to right-handed people, spiral notebooks like righties more, three-ring binders are basically torture tools for lefties because all they do is dig into our wrists and the driver cup holder is on the right side! I could get into an accident trying to maneuver drinking and putting my bottle back into the cup holder.

In terms of UCI, I will say that the campus takes great lengths to accommodate left-handed students, but still, the campus overwhelmingly caters to righties. Every lecture hall is filled with right-handed seats, and the left-handed seats exist only in the peripheries of the classrooms. In some of the older buildings, there are only right-handed seats, and the left-handed ones are hard to come by. In the library in particular, it is always a pain to use the scissors, because none were made for lefties like me.

Because of this, my life is just a little bit more difficult than that of most people. Obviously, this is unfortunate, but I have become accustomed to these problems. As a matter of fact, I have found ingenious ways to overcome these difficulties. For example, I often orient my notebooks perpendicular to me so I can write without hurting myself on the spirals. Sometimes I even write upside down (I am sure most right-handed people do not know how to do that). I also force myself to become ambidextrous while driving so I don’t spill my coffee. I have even found a way to use right-handed scissors without cutting myself or hurting someone. When I sit in right-handed seats I often orient my body completely sideways so my left elbow can rest on the edge of the desk.

It makes total sense that Albert Einstein, Aristotle, Marie Curie, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Winston Churchill were all part of the left-handers club. I mean, we are kind of amazing! Despite the fact that the world was not made for us, we are often changing the world with our ideas and leadership. I don’t know if I can be the next amazing left-hander, but it certainly is amazing to be a part of this exclusive club, despite all the hurdles I have to overcome at UCI and beyond.

Sharmin Shanur is a first-year cognitive sciences major. She can be reached at sshanur@uci.edu.

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As a left-handed writer, it sometimes feels as if the world is designed to inconvenience me. Considering the scarcity of lefty desks in both classrooms and lecture halls, I often find myself slightly ruffled by the predicaments my left-handedness puts me in on a regular basis. It may be a smaller issue in the scope of our university, but it’s an issue nonetheless.

You have to be quick on your feet and get to lectures early because lefty seats fill up fast.

It’s slightly more difficult to waltz in 20 minutes into lecture and grab a lefty desk. It
appears that even left-handed desks aren’t immune to the unassigned-assigned seat problem. If you’re not on time, you may find that some other student took your usual spot. Or it could be worse; a right-handed peer got there first. There’s a constant risk of someone taking your unassigned-assigned seat, but it’s magnified ten-fold as a lefty because you’ll most likely have to shift up or down a couple rows to find another left-handed desk.

It doesn’t get better for discussion sections in classrooms either. As a lefty, you’ll have to instantly scan the room upon entry to locate available desks and make a decision. Then you have to shuffle around awkwardly with your backpack as you push the righty desk (that’s on the far left side of the room, pinning you against the wall when you sit) outwards to sit.

Exam days are much more of a hassle. Many professors require left-handed students to send an email or fill out a survey to secure a spot on the lefty list ahead of time. Some professors refuse to accommodate in the interest of time. Personally, I think writing on a righty desk is manageable, but after extended periods of time, it strains my arm. My only fear is that one day, if I’m not careful, I may be accused of cheating because of the way I lean in when I write.
Maybe if there were more ambidextrous desks, it’d help address the problem. Both groups would be able to write comfortably. As for lecture halls, please don’t sit in the left-handed seat unless you are writing with your left hand or there’s absolutely no space available in the hundred or so right-handed seats.

Eashan Kotha is a first-year biological sciences major. He can be reached at ekotha@uci.edu