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Ergonomics for Lefties

Tuesday, July 14, 2009
By Anne Kramer

Although left-handed people certainly represent a minority of the population, they make up a significant portion. It has been estimated that at least 15%, and possibly as much as 25%, of the population is left handed. However, little attention is paid to customizing a left-handed person’s workstation.

Simply switching the mouse to the left side is a common provisional fix. However with the variety of ergonomic products available today, left-handed people can further customize their workstations to accommodate left-side dominance. 

1. When selecting a mouse, look for one that is contoured for a left-handed user. For bulk purchases of mice, look for a symmetrical design, which will be interchangeable for both right- and left-handed users. Alternative input devices are also an attractive ergonomic option:
  • Track balls can be used by either right- or left-handed people, and they also reduce the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries.
  • A touch pad is easily operated with either hand and eliminates click-related injuries. It can also be placed in the center of the keyboard, or on either side.
  • A foot switch completely eliminates the relevance of “handedness” and the use of the fingers, hands, and wrists.

2. The keyboard itself should be tailored for a lefty. This can be achieved a few different ways:

  • A left-handed keyboard features the numeric keypad and control keys on the left side, which is easier for lefties.
  • A sectioned or split keyboard can be adjusted not only to place the numeric keypad on the left, but also to accommodate correct typing posture for the hands and wrists.
  • If a keyboard tray is used, it should accommodate the mouse or input device on the left side.

3. Arrange the workstation so that often-used items are on the left side. The phone, along with frequently needed accessories like staplers and document holders, should go on the left.

  • Usually the workstation user can adjust these items based on individual preference. The same ergonomic principles apply regarding reaching distance and posture, so the workstation may need slight reconfiguration if it caters to right-handed users.
  • It is still important to remember that stress should be distributed as evenly as possible over both sides of the body. Neither right- nor left-handed people should do every task with only their dominant sides.

With careful planning and smart workstation accessory choices, left-handed users will be more comfortable and productive. By tailoring their workstations to accommodate their left-handedness, lefties will prevent injuries and work more efficiently.

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