Motion, parallax and animations on the web can actually make people feel nauseous, dizzy, or even give them a headache. For someone with Vestibular issues, the effect can be much worse, and considered painful even. As designers and developers, what can we do?

Note: I originally published this over on Storify, but as I looked more closely, I noticed a lot of things that I couldn’t control and were causing some significant accessibility issues. So, I’ve updated this article and pulled it over here where I have full control over it.

As part of Balance Awareness Week 2014, my friend Marissa reached out to a lot of twitter users about what they were experiencing in iOS8. Some of the zooming and motion in iOS is causing dizziness & nausea.

This is a known issue, and has been around since iOS7 with some of the changes made to the iOS interface design. Apple provides some detail on reducing screen motion in iOS7. This setting changes the parallax effect, making it less pronounced. It also changes the transitions from being a zoom to being a fade. Marissa points to these settings as well, and that they can be easily turned off in iOS8. She also shows how to turn off predictive text as an additional “safeguard.”

iOS8 and vestibular disorders

For those of you unfamiliar with Vestibular Disorders, you should go read our friend Greg Tarnoff‘s Primer to Vestibular Disorders. I love his one line summary:

Your personal steady-cam is broken and whatever you look at tends to move regardless if you are moving

It isn’t like iOS8 is the only cause of vestibular issues. And it isn’t just in the digital world either. These effects are felt everywhere in the real world. But after seeing Marissa’s post, I looked through her feed and noticed that she referenced quite a few tweets from people that were experiencing issues specifically with iOS8. I’ve collected a few here, so you can see the impact that the motion and predictive text is having on some people.

I’m not sure if any of those folks experience vestibular issues in other parts of their life or not. I can only assume that these issues are being felt by these people for the first time. They all seemed quite surprised in their tweets. Their reactions all point to something much bigger.

In the human continuum, if there’s something that has a small impact on someone and is an annoyance or hindrance, there’s a very good chance that it affects someone else to a much greater extent, to the point where annoyance becomes debilitating pain and hindrance becomes a show-stopper.

Important lessons: What should you do?

There’s a lot of important lessons here for designers and developers. I know we’re not all designing and creating mobile operating systems, but many of us want to use animations and parallax to increase engagement in our sites and apps because we’re all competing for attention these days. Consider these things as you move forward in your work with design, development or both:

  1. There’s more to disability than blindness.
    Most people feel confident that they’re creating “accessible sites” when they’re usually focused on screen reader compatibility. We all need to think more broadly when it comes to accessibility.
  2. Parallax effects and motion can be quite painful for some people.
    The effects of vestibular issues are wide and varied. Dizziness, headaches, nausea, migraines. This can be quite serious.
  3. Use preferences or settings to turn motion/parallax off.
    If you’re designing something with a lot of motion, consider a setting or preference that allows people to turn that motion or animation off. Fortunately, that’s what Apple has provided in iOS since version 7.