When a week ago, Shweta Singh wrote to Hindustan Pencils, describing how her 4-and-a-half-year-old left-handed daughter was unhappy about not being able to use a sharpener, like other kids, she probably hadn’t imagined a reply and a set of shiny sharpeners designed especially for her little one. This might have been just another post, except it wasn’t. It got me to thinking — is stationary really that exclusive?
As I shared the post on my wall, a friend started sharing her bit of bad experiences in comments, expressing just how uncomfortable it has been for her to adapt to the ‘normal’ stationary. She tells me how this was a major reason she wasn’t good at craft — it’s difficult for her to be able to cut a paper into a half, without the right kind of scissors.
The one point that really blew my mind was when she wrote, “Even the mouse on your computer isn’t meant for lefties.” (Should have been obvious, no? Wasn’t for me!) What my friend had to learn over time to brush off as a minority-problems-got-to-fit-in goes way deeper than what it appears on the surface.
“Since all the books and stationery is designed according to right-hand writing skilled kids, the kids who use their left hands face a lot of problems. For my daughter, her natural instinct is to write from right to left (the way Urdu in written) and I had to train her a lot for her to be able to write from left to right,” says Shweta.
But that isn’t all! Shweta further tells me how writing on a black or whiteboard is tougher for a left-handed person as they have to extra careful of not erasing it on the way. Probably the most surprising revelation for me was to know that even using a spiral book needs work because they have to constantly put their arm on the plastic part, which may even result in pain!
The design of the sharpeners in the image shared by Shweta is a really unique one, and it also got me intrigued. I contacted the brand to know more about their venture regarding the new range of sharpeners and they told me how they have been working on creating something like this for a while now.
One of the most interesting things I came to know was how they conduct workshops for little kids to teach them how to use a pencil and other stationary items as a part of research and development to understand the little issues kids face while using their product. In a couple of such trials, they had figured the issues faced by kids with left-hand writing skills. In this case, Shweta’s letter came at the right time and they decided to share a few pieces of their work for her child to sample.
“Since people usually adapt themselves to be able to use stationary that the right-handed people are comfortable in using, our first job here is to create awareness about the possibility and use of products specially designed for left-handed people,” an official from Hindustan Pencils tells me.
On a quick Google search, I found a few items that I had never seen or even thought of before! I would sincerely recommend a quick look at the options available at The Left Hand Shop. However, the one thing I realised was how almost everything on the list was expensive! Why should you pay more for basic stationary that’s available for a fraction of that price?
When I asked about the affordability of such products to the brand representative, I was enlightened about the hurdles they face before launching a product on a mass scale. In case of sharpeners, today there are mechanical and even electric sharpeners that just negate the entire idea of which hand you primarily use it with.
“A part of our research is also about whether we really need separate sharpeners or could the design be such that it can be used by all. Affordability is definitely a factor we have to work on, which will in depend on the demand for the product. It’s tricky because it’s a very niche market,” the official adds.
The following video will help you understand the difference the right kind of stationery can make for someone:
In the end, all I can say is that this is not just an excellent example of a brand being responsive to its consumer base, but also something that makes you look beyond what’s there on the surface. I couldn’t spot these issues despite my best friend being left-handed and I guess that’s enough reason for me to put across this post for awareness!