The Russ Rule

I’ve already mentioned the Russ Rule in one post, so I thought I’d better explain that.

Russ was my neighbor for several years. At the time of writing, he’s 100 years old. Russ has lived alone for decades, but lives a full life with minimal help of family and friends. Up until last year, he tilled and maintained a 300 square foot garden of tomatoes, beans, corn, and squash. He drives himself everywhere. An army communications officer in World War II and later chemist (who retired before I was born), he keeps up with technology–like Skyping with his grandson. He mows his own lawn, fixes stuff around the house, and even invented his own solar viewer for the 2017 eclipse.

Russ only has the use of one arm. He contracted polio in the 50’s just months before the vaccine became available. Polio stays with you for life and gradually weakens all muscles, though Russ’s arm was affected immediately and permanently. So he has spent the last 65 years figuring out how to do things with one working arm.

Unsurprisingly, he developed a number of ingenious tools and procedures for doing anything he wanted. Though I’ve been a Web designer for 20 years–accessibility and usability have always been paramount concerns in my work–hanging out with Russ truly opened my eyes to how needlessly difficult many of our daily tasks are made by lazy design that assumes two working arms and hands.  As I go through my day, I am always thinking: “How would Russ do this?” And the Russ Rule of design naturally becomes:

If using your design requires two hands, redesign.

Or something like that. I’m not someone who remembers clever turns of phrase or lives by maxims that sounded really clever or deep at some point in time. But you get the point. And if something works well for someone with one hand, it will work really great for someone with two hands.

The Drifter is designed as a telescope that can be used one-handed. From picking it up, to deploying the secondary cage, inserting the filter cartridges, focusing, changing the IPD, using the digital interface, plugging in the dew heaters, to packing it all back up–Russ should be able to enjoy this telescope.

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