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Design websites for 23 million migraine sufferers

Tikouka in the mist.

Your website design could be triggering migraine attacks.

Is this a trivial issue? Should you care?

There's heaps of information about designing Web pages for people with disabilities, because for government web sites in many countries, this is mandatory.

Checklists for accessible web sites

But there's nothing in that document about migraine sufferers, so I'm speaking up on their behalf. There are 23 million in the USA alone.

That's an awful lot of migraines

The Journal of the American Medical Association's Migraine Information Centre was once named Incredibly Useful Site of the Day by Yahoo Internet Life. They say:

'Migraine headache is a common condition with a prevalence of 17.6% in females and 5.7% in males. The American Migraine Study estimated that 23 million persons older than 12 years of age have severe migraine headaches; [. . .] The social and economic effects of migraine are staggering perhaps $2 to $17.2 billion are lost in productivity per year.'

One known trigger of migraines is certain types of visual stimulation. These include features you might be using on your website:

  • flashing lights
  • shimmer
  • strobes
  • rapid movement of light
  • stripes
  • staircase or zig-zag or geometric patterns.

Why should this be?

Here's my non-scientific answer. (I figured this out after realising that two things were literally giving me migraines: sewing black-and-white striped fabric, and doing crazy patchwork.)

The usual sequence of events

  1. the spooky here-comes-a-migraine feeling (lethargy, thick brain, far-away feeling, lost vocabulary)
  2. the aura, which includes a zig-zaggy staircasey flashy shimmery strobey scintillating rapidly moving geometric sort of pattern floating round the corner of your vision
  3. the headache, the vomit, the go-to-bed routine
  4. the spooky post-migraine feeling (very like No. 1)

Variation of the usual sequence

Brain jumps the gun. When shown anything that resembles the visual aura (e.g stripes, shimmery lights), brain thinks "Got it!' . . . and goes into automatic migraine.

Weird behaviour

I rarely have migraines now. But the other day, I noticed myself doing something a little weird.

I placed my hand over half the computer screen, hiding the menu of a certain web page.

It shimmered, you see. Very pretty. And I started to get that funny here-comes-a-migraine feeling, and automatically protected myself.

Ruth Dalsky, MEd & Diane Wakat, PhD said:

'Headaches are not a minor malady; they are the seventh leading reason for why people seek medical assistance in the US. More than 18 million out-patient visits per year are due to headache.'

Therefore delete the horribles

Please remove those loops of pattern and colour, and everything else that's suspect.

If in doubt, try your website out on a migraine sufferer.

You won't have any trouble finding a migraine sufferer. We are legion.

But as for finding one willing to test your zig-zaggy staircasey flashy shimmery strobey scintillating rapidly moving geometric sort of website... fat chance.

The gentle-on-the-eyes image "Tikouka in the mist" is 2003 Miraz Jordan, Photographer.mactips.info


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