About Epilepsy and Vestibular Disorders

Epilepsy and vestibular disorders are two separate types of disorders. However, digital triggers for both epilepsy and vestibular disorders are similar.

  • What is epilepsy? Epilepsy is a central nervous system (neurological) disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations and sometimes loss of awareness. Anyone can develop epilepsy. Epilepsy affects both males and females of all races, ethnic backgrounds and ages.
  • What is a vestibular disorder? The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that process the sensory information involved with controlling balance and eye movements. If disease or injury damages these processing areas, disorders of dizziness or balance can result. Vestibular disorders can also result from, or be worsened by, genetic or environmental conditions, or occur for unknown reasons.

Barriers to Inclusion

  • Lack of knowledge around seizure and vestibular disorder disorders and how debilitating they can be when triggered (whether life threatening or causing someone to be sick in bed for days, weeks, or months).
  • Lack of awareness by video creators (both professional and hobbyists) and web designers around visual triggers for the disorders (flashing content, parallax effects, etc.). 
  • Intentional use of web content to do harm to these communities, whether as a joke or as harassment. See "Tweet that sent journalist Kurt Eichenwald into seizure considered 'deadly weapon' in indictment."
  • Fluorescent lighting in work environments. 
  • Strobe lights and camera flashes.
  • High contrast graphics with tight parallel lines.
  • Animated scrolling that lasts longer than perhaps 1/4 second.
  • Parallax or reverse parallax‚ÄĒsimultaneous foreground and background scrolling in different directions or at different speeds.
  • Moving images beneath static text.

Amplifying Voices in the Epilepsy and Vestibular Disorder Community

Our goal on this site is to amplify the voices of each community. Disability communities are often spoken over or spoken for when they are already speaking out for themselves. 

Article: Your Interactive Makes Me Sick

In this article, Eileen Webb talks about what it's like to navigate animated sites with chronic migraines and the limited threshold that the vestibular community has when trying to navigate a digital world with endless animations. 

Book: "Visions: The Inspirational Journeys of Epilepsy Advocates"

Co-edited by Linda Sudlesky, an Instructional Designer at UMass Boston, Visions: The Inspirational Journeys of Epilepsy Advocates contains the stories of 50 people who have answered the call to advocate on behalf of those with epilepsy. 

Article: Accessibility for Vestibular Disorders: How My Temporary Disability Changed My Perspective

Facundo Corradini provides what he learned from a temporary vestibular disability about digital barriers on the web.

Understanding How the Epilepsy and Vestibular Disorder Community Accesses the Web

As with other disability communities, the blind and low vision community is diverse so the assistive technology and access needs will vary by individual.

  • As animations and videos are a huge trigger for both communities if designed without them in mind, the community heavily relies on the ability to either use the reduced motion display mode or a product's user preferences to deactivate all videos and animations.
  • Provide the ability to hide fixed content - for example, if you have a fixed table of contents on the left for a long article, give the option to collapse that menu. 
  • Ensure your site can be used with dark mode, reader mode, and high contrast mode. 
  • Provide descriptive transcripts and audio descriptions for videos that have motion sensitivity triggers.