Accessibility: Animation on Computers
Recently I have become aware that a number of my friends and colleagues
are bothered, as I am, by animations on computer screens. I have a
couple of friends who have avoided computing careers because they find
animation and scrolling problematic, and I also know several
experienced developers who are very adept at turning off animation for
the same reason. To help others with this, I have put together a
helpful hints article below.
How to turn off animation in various applications and operating
If you are annoyed by the animations that are increasingly being added
to operating system and application interfaces, then here are some
hints on how to turn the animations off. Turning off animation reduces
overload of computers but also prevents motion sickness in users who
are susceptible. This is important for accessibility in individual
users, and more so in a teaching context where people looking on have
no control over what is shown on the screen.
Mac OS X
In Mac OS X you can use this command on the command line:
'defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSWindowResizeTime .001'. It
speeds up 'sheets' to the point where their animation is faster than
the eye can see, so GUI elements just spontaneously appear in their
final position rather than sliding across the screen. For example if
you use this command and then double click on the computer icon on your
desktop, then instead of sliding across the screen, the finder window
will spontaneously appear in its final position. This is great, and
in most applications and in the finder it solves the problems. It
does not fix the dashboard widgets, and there is currently no way that
I know of to turn off their animation. The animation of the Mac OS X
dock has to be turned off separately in the system preferences panel.
The minimize icon in the top left corner of Mac application windows
reduces the window to an icon in the dock with a sweeping animated
motion, and I am not aware of any way to turn off this animation.
In the new Leopard operating system they have a centralized animation
system called Core Animation.
(http://www.apple.com/macosx/technology/coreanimation.html) I'm not
sure if there is a central way to turn animation off in this as I have
not upgraded yet, but I have written to ask and will update this
article if I hear anything.
In Windows XP there is very little built in animation, which is
great. Some of the menus slide up and down rather than just appearing,
and you can turn this off using Windows Powertoys TweakUI
In Vista there is a ton of built in animation, but there is a lot of
information online about how to turn this off. To turn it all off in
one shot I just revert the Vista interface to the XP Classic view. The
instructions on how to do that are here:
It's very easy and works a treat.
Scrolling in Browsers
Some computer users suffer from motion sickness when watching scrolling
on a computer screen that is controlled by someone else. This can be a
particular problem when a computer user is teaching one or more other
people. I avoid this by using page down or page up and the arrow keys,
as this moves the page to a new spot without the sliding motion.
However, in many browsers I have to turn off a feature called 'smooth
scrolling' in which the page down button or mouse wheel scroll causes a
sort of gradual speed-varying sliding motion, rather then just making
the page snap into its new place. You can see this very clearly in
Picassa, which slides in a really extreme way, and unfortunately cannot
currently be configured not to. Fortunately many browsers now include a
control that easily turns off smooth scrolling. You can usually find
this in a menu called 'options' or 'preferences'.
Another thing that can be difficult in browsing is the vast array of
moving adverts on the internet, but these can be turned off fairly
easily in the browser Opera, which has excellent accessibility
controls. It has the option to add check boxes to the top bar of the
get to this by [Tools][Appearance][Buttons][Preferences], and then you
just drag the check box you want up to the top bar and drop it in
position. The provision of these check boxes means that java,
java to let you fill in an interactive form. Some other more difficult
animated images have to be added to a special blocked list, and the
list prevents them from being loaded in the first place. You can find
this list under [Tools][Advanced][Blocked content]. To find the url
that you want to block you may have to look at the source html and pick
out the url of the animated image. This is then added to the 'blocked
content' list. In Firefox there is an add-on feature called flash-block
that prevents flash animations from playing unless you click on them,
and this is very helpful in allowing you to choose which animated
images you view. If you start a flash animation and wish to stop it
then you just need to reload the page, and the flash animation
immediately stops again.
Unfortunately many websites currently do not have any non-animated
accessible pages. When I last looked, the Honda website was an example
of this, and was consequently completely inaccessible for some users.
Conversely, the BBC Website is an excellent accessibility example, with
only a ticker-tape animation on one page. Even this can be turned off
by going to the 'Low Graphics' version. If web developers are reading
this I would really encourage them to produce websites that are
accessible to those who cannot use animated interfaces.
In Linux there is usually much less animation. Sometimes the
cursor bounces up and down like a ball, but this can be turned off with
a control called 'busy cursor'.
Please send more tips!
I hope this is helpful to those users who have difficulty with animated
interfaces. It should also help those many individuals who we are all
teaching, and who have little control over what we subject them to on
the screen. I am always on the look out for more tips on how to turn
off animation, so if you have any good tips to share then please do
send them to me (jendeegan at gmail.com), and I will add them to this