October 12, 2009

Library Computers Discriminate Against Lefties

Lefty Lady wrote:

Last week I attended a class in the Cal State Northridge Library. I moved the mouse to the left-hand side and then attempted to reverse the mouse buttons. Normally I simply use control Panel to change the mouse settings. But Control Panel was not visible on the library's computer. There was an "Accessibility" menu, but none of the things listed there had anything to do with making the computer accessible to lefties. I asked the librarian in charge of the class how to switch the mouse buttons. She didn't know how and went to get someone else. She came back with a guy who told me that there was no way to switch the buttons because Control Panel had been disabled for security reasons. He claimed that I was the first person who had ever asked for this. I told him I wouldn't be the last. He said it would probably be another twelve years before that happened. Wow! My right handed friends agreed with me that his response was inappropriate. And, seriously, if we were talking about accessibility for people who speak Japanese (which was available on that computer) would it matter how many or how often? Would the library refuse to meet the needs of all the various ethnic and religious groups, deaf people, or people with disabilities who are on campus, simply because they haven't often made these requests? I don't think so.

Reversing the mouse button is a simple thing that has been easy to do on PCs for many, many years. Not every lefty reverses the mouse buttons, but many do. In fact, even some righties do this, so they can use the mouse in the left hand while taking notes with the right. The point is, those of us who need to use the mouse in this perfectly normal way should not be placed at a disadvantage.

So here's my request. Whether or not you are left-handed, and whether or not you prefer to switch the mouse buttons, if you are a CSUN student (or anyone who has business on campus) please go to the library and ask for help reversing the mouse buttons for left-handed use. Be polite but firm. In your conversation with the librarian, make sure you use the word "accessible". For example, "It's hard to use the library when the computers aren't accessible." Or, "How do you plan to address this accessibility problem?" You might also want to use the word "discrimination", as in, "I'm very surprised to find this kind of discrimination going on here."

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