One of those challenging disability conditions is epilepsy. Epilepsy is one of humanity's oldest recognized diseases, which affects roughly 50 million people worldwide (diagnosed in nearly 1 percent of the world's population). Each individual has his or her own story of what it is to live with epilepsy. Some are fortunate enough to only have the occasional seizure while others live under the constant threat of developing severe (status epilepticus) life-threatening seizures. And despite increased research into the causes and treatments for epileptic seizures, many forms of epilepsy can't be cured. The varying levels of severity of the disease mean that different individuals will face very different challenges when accessing websites.
Online accessibility, on the other hand, is a concern for everyone but often doesn't get the attention it deserves. Even when designers are aware of their users' needs, they can have trouble implementing those needs into their work.
Here, we'll go over some tips and tricks for making your site or app more accessible to someone with epilepsy.
Consider the following things when you're thinking about the aesthetics of your website or app:
Make sure not to use too many colors or patterns. While having color in your design is important, remember that too much can be overwhelming for someone with epilepsy. Try to keep your color palette (and a number of colors) simple and consistent throughout the design.
Use complementary colors in your color palette to create a soothing, balanced look without being overpowering—like how blue and orange, if used consistently and carefully, can create a calming visual experience.
Make sure that all buttons are clearly labeled and that links are clearly formatted so they're easy to distinguish from regular text. This will not only make your site more accessible for people with vision problems, but also for people who rely on assistive technology like screen readers to navigate your site!
For instance, instead of "click here," a link should say something like "read our most recent blog post here."
Contrast and color
Lighting can have a huge effect on your ability to read something, whether you have epilepsy or not. It's important to make sure you have enough light to be able to see easily, but not too much. On top of that, you want to make sure there's a good amount of contrast between the background color and the text color. For example, if your background is white, the text should be black. If the background is black, the text should be white. This is because it takes longer for our eyes to process colors when they're similar, so it's easier for us to see when they're very different from each other.
When it comes to readability, epilepsy has some unique challenges. Some people with epilepsy can't read in patterns or on a white background, for example. Others have trouble reading when the text is too close together. It's important to find out what your friend needs. They might be able to tell you what colors and fonts are easiest for them to read. Additionally, you can make sure that you don't write more than one idea into a single sentence. This way your sentences are easier to parse. Finally, try using bullets or numbered lists whenever possible so that your content isn't overcrowded.
Another important consideration for people with epilepsy is navigation. The most important thing you can do here is to keep your layout consistent from page to page so that it's easy for readers to understand how to navigate your site. You should also use clear headings and subheadings so that readers can scan through the piece quickly if they want to find something specific. Finally, make sure that links are easy to identify by using colors that stand out from other elements on the page (e.g., red text surrounded by blue background).
Movement, Flash, and Animation
While having a little bit of movement on your site can communicate information to the user—like highlighting a button that you want them to click—too much can cause seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy (A type of epilepsy in which flickering or flashing light (natural or artificial), overexposure to video games, high contrast patterns like stripes or checks that can trigger seizures).
Using blinking or flashing elements is another no-no for the same reason, so make sure that nothing on your site blinks more than three times per second! Also, if your site uses moving content that isn't essential to the user experience, make sure you offer a way for users to turn it off.
And finally, status messages or “toast messages” shouldn't flash more than once per second. This can also cause seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy. They pop up and then fade away after a little bit of time. You should include options for people with epilepsy to disable them!
We've tried to lay out everything you can do to make your site accessible for people with epilepsy—no matter the level of complexity. Ultimately, accessibility isn't something that you can "set and forget," but it's an ongoing process that needs your attention and consideration. You never know how much difference your small efforts could make to someone else's enjoyment of the web.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding epilepsy, and even more when it comes to living with the condition. It's easy to fall into base assumptions about what an epilepsy sufferer can do, or can't do. But if we take a minute to see things from their perspective, we may be surprised at how much there is to gain for us all.
One last thing. Here at Helperbird, we dedicate our time to making your browsing experience as smooth as possible. If you find that some of the web features are a bit too stimulating, our “Hide Image” feature tool helps remove potentially harmful and distracting photos, gifs, and flashing images from web pages. It is a tool designed for Epileptic and highly sensitive users when using the web.