Hey Microsoft, Why the Southpaw Hate?

Disclaimer first: I’m not left handed, but this particular issue brought home how the default right-handedness of things must be seriously frustrating to left handed people.

I have one or two Windows 8.1 machines that have touch screens. They’re full windows machines, not tablets, but they have the feature. I actually use the touch very rarely – usually only on the MS Surface when I’m sitting somewhere away from my office and need to do a bit of a quick thing online and haven’t got a proper mouse with me (Or haven’t bothered to pull it out of my bag and plug it in) … I find the touch screen to be more useful for some tasks than the touch pad… but over all I rarely if ever use the feature.

Now, there’s this little design feature of tablet mode.. someone somewhere reasoned that if you’re right handed then the interactions you do with menu items like drop downs etc… well, using a mouse, there’s no hand to get in the way so they all drop down a certain way top left toward bottom right. It’s intuitive with a mouse, but when you’re using your finger to touch, it’s true that your hand kind of blocks the menus when they orient this way.

So, Microsoft helpfully has a tablet mode feature that changes how menus work .. so that they expand to the left to stay out of the way of your hand. When touching a screen this actually does make some sense.

However, there are two issues in this. First is that being on the Autism spectrum, I’m a bit prickly about when anyone changes my user interface in any way without my express buy-in. I am very fond of things working exactly as I expect them.. but the other is this: you can easily turn off that feature .. or more to to the point, go into the control panel under tablet options and tell it you want “left-hand” mode.

Essentially, this is the setting I would assume that many left-handed users would want to use so that the default tablet behavior of left hand menus can be flipped for their use.

PERFECT! I just turn that over as if I were left handed, and presto, my menus work the way I want them (I’ll deal with moving my hand out of the way just fine thanks)

And all is well with the world .. until the next windows update.

EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Every time Windows update updates my pc, it seems that one of the things it “helpfully” does is set that tablet mode back to right handed.

Now, this is a total “first world problem” I get it..nobody’s going to die because I have to go back and re-select left handed.

But it got me thinking/realizing.. if you’re a left handed person you’re likely really annoyed with how the world defaults to right handed for everything. In often subtle, but frequently annoying ways, things like scissors literally not working well, with notebooks having rings in the way etc.. little annoyances.

And so what bugs me so darn much here is that MS seems to feel the need to keep resetting the setting I’ve chosen. And this must be likewise annoying to left handed people who would also have to reset the setting every damn time it Windows updates.

So, I just want to say to my southpaw friends/family, I may not really know your pain, but I’ve touched a tiny corner of it and can empathize. It really sucks when the default excludes you.

I am well aware that this whole issue of “world just assumes X is the default and it really throws up a lot of annoying barriers for people with Y” applies to issues of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs etc…

In its own little way, this little annoyance illustrates that we should all be paying attention to the default assumptions we face every day and maybe just maybe, to question / push back against them.