Back in 2016, an article by Mouthwire, a satire website, claimed that left handed people in the USA would be eligible for disability benefits. This article was circulated all over social media and had lefties wondering whether their ‘condition’ was actually classed as a disability.
Fast forward and there are several articles that successfully disputed this claim, including one by the internet legend for undoing rumours, Snopes.
So, does this mean that being left handed doesn’t make you a disabled person? There are certainly challenges that lefties have to face but they’re by no means to the same level that those with a true physical disability have to deal with. Let’s explore further.
What Is The Definition Of A Disability?
According to the UK Government, a person is classed as disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that limits their ability to perform everyday tasks.
The same page on the Gov website states that the impairment must substantially affect your ability to do something. For example, it may take you longer to dress or bathe yourself owing to your condition. It also talks about how a disability can be defined by a long term impairment and by this, they’re talking about anything that lasts longer than 12 months.
Is Left Handedness A Disability?
There is no doubt in my mind that being left handed isn’t without its challenges. In fact, a lot of tasks can be much more difficult when you’re left handed but this does not make it a disability. While dexterity is certainly not a choice, there are plenty of left handed tools out there to make life easier for the 10% of people whose left hand is dominant.
For example, you can purchase left handed scissors, tin openers, notebooks and many other items. These are designed to make tasks that little bit easier but would not be classed as disability aids.
Can I Claim Disability Benefits For Being Left Handed?
The article that was published by Mouthwire stated that left handed people would now be eligible for disability benefits. However, keep in mind that this was aimed at a US audience and had the American social security system in mind.
Regardless of this, North Americans were not, nor have they ever been eligible to claim disability benefits because they are left handed.
The same applies in the United Kingdom. There is currently no provision for left handed people under the government benefit system. I highly doubt that this is something that will come into play in the future either.
That said, the lines of what classes as a disability and what doesn’t are somewhat blurred because each case is treated individually. There are some conditions that give you automatic eligibility such as cancer, HIV infections and long term disfigurement. But the condition doesn’t have to be medically diagnosed.
For example, if you are suffering from stress or anxiety, this may come with secondary symptoms that prevent you from doing everyday tasks in a normal manner. In this case, you may qualify for benefits. Again, it’s unlikely that being left handed would ever result in a successful disability benefits claim.
Problems Faced By Left Handed People
While being left handed is not classed as a disability, it does make life more difficult for those whose dexterity is inclined this way.
90% of people are right handed so this means that tools, equipment and appliances are designed with right handed people in mind. Something that can seem simple to a rightie may pose a whole host of problems for left handed people.
Things like pens, scissors and even desks can be a challenge and I’ve even heard about children being encouraged to use their right hand in school. But the decision to be left handed is a totally subconscious one and for left handed children, it can be almost impossible to force right handedness where it’s not natural.
When writing in a notebook, left handed people tend to smudge the ink as their hand moves over what they’ve already written. This may sound trivial but it can be hugely frustrating when you have to put up with every day of your life.
Fortunately, there has been a real wake up call among manufacturers and there are lots of left handed items available to make life easier.
But it isn’t just about making things simpler, being left handed could come with some dangerous consequences and again, this is totally out of our control.
When using things like saws, forklift trucks and other industrial tools, there is an emergency switch. This shuts off the power and could be the difference between your safety and a horrific injury. However, the safety switch is almost always located on the right hand side, therefore catering to the right handed community.
Most countries around the world drive on the right side of the road. This can be potentially risky for left handed people since they’re naturally inclined to use their dominant hand to pull towards traffic in the case of encountering an obstacle. In fact, it’s been demonstrated that more left handed people become fatalities in car accidents than those who are right side dominant.
An article published some years ago had lefties excited that they may now be able to claim benefits as they were considered to be disabled. Unfortunately for them, this was a hoax and it was never the case that being left handed would be called a disability.
I’m under no illusion that left handed people have a much harder time in day to day life. It’s more difficult to complete tasks that the rest of us take for granted. While there are pieces of equipment designed to aid left handed users, these aren’t hugely common so many people still find things difficult.
As it stands, and how it looks to remain is that being left handed does not qualify a person to claim disability benefit in the UK, USA or anywhere else in the world.