London 2012 Olympics branding film causes epileptic seizures

One thing to keep in mind when introducing any kind of flashing on the Web is the possibility of it causing seizures in people who have photosensitive epilepsy. It’s one of the basics of Web accessibility, and the fact that flashing or strobing can trigger epileptic seizures is widely known even among people who do not work in the field of accessibility.

I was first made aware of it back in the early nineties, when I used to do a bit of DJing. I loved using the strobes, but after a girl came up to the DJ booth one night to tell me she’d had an epileptic seizure caused by strobing lights I stopped using them. Strobes are cool, but not when you know they may trigger a seizure in someone on the dance floor.

But it seems that knowledge of the connection between strobing or flashing lights and epilepsy attacks is not as widespread as I thought. Recently a movie clip that was published on the official London 2012 Olympic Games website (Warning! Contains colour combinations that are painful to look at. Yes, really.) contained an animation that caused seizures in at least thirty people. And those are just the people who contacted the charity Epilepsy Action about it.

The same film, created to promote the London 2012 brand, was shown on television, where it also triggered seizures. This is a bit more surprising than the film being published on the website, since there are machine-testable regulations for television footage that make sure it does not trigger seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy. The London 2012 ad was apparently not tested, and consequently did not comply with the Ofcom safety guidelines, as mentioned by BBC News in Epilepsy fears over 2012 footage.

The film has since been re-edited to remove the seizure-triggering segment. Accessibility issues aside, the logo for the London 2012 Olympic Games has been talked about in plenty of forums. I’ll settle for saying that I’ve seen many logos that are better, but Jack Pickard has a bit more to say about it in London Logo No Go. Hint—he is not overly enthusiastic about it ;-).

Posted on June 29, 2007 in Accessibility