Hand Dryer Racism

by | Sep 20, 2020 | ICT4D |

hand dryer

Strange fact about me.

I often struggle with getting the automatic hand dryers to work in public bathrooms. Figuring out where to put my hands to turn it on, but then to keep it on. I’m a walking comedy sketch. And frankly, many times I’ve looked for the ‘Just for Laughs’ hidden camera. This has been my experience ever since I was a young boy. The only dryers I’ve ‘mastered’ are the Dyson ones I put my hands inside. (But they’re so loud they scare our children.)

Recently, I’ve come to learn other people have a similar problem. With soap dispensers or automatic taps.

However, it’s not because they are putting their hands in the wrong spot. It’s due to the colour of their skin. Darker skin tones are not noticed by the sensor so soap or water is not dispensed. Basically the sensor does not acknowledge the existence of the person.

Imagine that conversation between a parent and a young child. “Sorry son, we don’t exist according to this gadget.” “But Dad, why does it think Jimmy exists?” How does a parent have those discussions with their when the hand dryers don’t acknowledge their existence at school? What does it say to the child? Frankly, the birds and the bees might be a easier discussion.

There are many reasons for these racist designs. From diversity of design and quality assurance teams and so on. However, it seems rather basic that part of our industry standards should be that things need to work for people of all cultures, genders and colours. Surely that is a basic right and expectation of living in a multicultural society?

The choice is up to us. (I’m still trying to get the hand dryer to work)

Photo by digitaladdictsblog


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