Mostly 'Armless

I have a brachial-plexus injury to my right arm. In layman’s terms, I have nerve damage and can’t use my entire right arm very well. It doesn’t stop me doing much – but it is most certainly a disability.

The first question that many people will ask me about my arm is whether I am left handed. This is always a question that leaves me bemused, because I have no conception of left and right handed.

My injury is from birth. The notion of having two working arms is entirely foreign to me. I often wonder what on earth I would do with another arm. It just seems like such an obscene luxury. Like having two Ferraris.

I am left handed because that’s the hand that works. Interestingly, being solely left handed is the most disabling thing for me. Have you ever tried buying a left handed bread knife or scissors? How about looking for a camera with buttons on the left? We live in a world of products designed by right-handers, for right-handers.

Most lefties learn to deal with this as mild annoyances and swap hands. For me, right hand bias is the difference between being able to use a product and not use a product. Next time you are looking at a new product, have a think about the biases in the construction. They can be hard to see, but once you start looking, you’ll find them.

But my arm is not at all useless. Many of my friends find that it is an excellent bag hook and coat hanger. During summer it is perpetually cooler than the rest of my body, which makes for great in-built air conditioning. It also kinda makes me look like a t-rex. Which is legit.

Christopher Karas is the Disabilities Officer for ANUSA. Any questions or concerns regarding disabilities can be directed to sa.disabilities@anu.edu.au