Warning: WordPress.com’s Falling Snow Feature May Make Your Site Inaccessible

Snow FlakeYesterday, I explained how to make it snow on your website if you have the Jetpack plugin activated. After publishing the article, Mark Root-Wiley commented with a link that explains why the snow animation on websites is not a good idea. According to the website After Gadget which is hosted on WordPress.com, the snowflake animation allegedly caused her friend to have a seizure.

Recently a friend of mine visited a blog she often visits. What she didn’t know was that the blogger had added a fun, temporary new feature to her blog. When my friend visited the blog, it triggered a seizure.

The seizure trigger in my friend’s case was WordPress’ “Let It Snow” feature, which is a feature that causes little white dots to float continuously down the screen soon after someone opens the blog.

While I initially brushed off the article as an attempt to dampen holiday spirits, it turns out that the falling snowflakes are akin to videos or audio playing automatically after a page loads. Seeing the snowflakes falling without anything triggering the action can induce panic attacks. While autoplays are annoying to begin with, they are devastating to those with disabilities. Some of the disabilities affected include:

  • Blindness, low vision, or other visual issues
  • Migraines and seizures (the first and fourth most common neurological disorders, respectively)
  • Sensory processing issues and various of other neurological issues
  • PTSD, panic attacks, and other conditions that cause a heightened startle responses

The last thing on my mind when turning the snow machine on for WPTavern.com were the accessibility issues associated with the animation. After reading the article, I’ve decided to turn the snowflakes off. Searching the WordPress plugin repository for an alternative that would allow visitors to manually turn the animation on came up empty-handed. It would be nice to see a snowfall widget that contained a simple on-off button that would save the visitors choice via a cookie.

Before enabling the snow animation on your website, I encourage you to read her article first. Even if her story is false which I have no reason to believe it is, the Web Content Accessibility Group, specifically pause, stop, provides a clear explanation as to why snow automatically falling down on a web page makes a website inaccessible.

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