Taylor Hunt speaks about the impact of ADHD

Talking with Taylor Hunt, who calls himself a webspinner and a lapsed artist. He has ADHD and tells us about the impact of animations and no underlines on links.


Nic: Hi. I’m Nic Steenhout, and you’re listening to the Accessibility Rules Soundbite. It’s a series of short podcasts where people with disabilities explain their impairments and what barriers they encounter on the web. Today, I’m talking with Taylor Hunt. Hi, Taylor.

Taylor: Hello.

Nic: How are you doing?

Taylor: I’m all right.

Nic: Good. Taylor, you told me in an email that you had ADHD. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Taylor: Certainly. ADHD is a condition that a lot of people think they know about, but it’s undergone a lot of research and new understanding over the past decade or so. It no longer stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder because, as it turns out, that description wasn’t accurate. Nowadays, it doesn’t stand for anything.

Nic: Okay, that’s fair enough.

Taylor: If I had to, it’s different for everyone, but if I had to sum up how it works for me is that it means I can only focus on one thing at a time, and I know with everyone talking about how multitasking is a lie, that’s true of everyone, but for me, it’s especially true. I can’t drive and listen to music at the same time, otherwise, I’d get lost.

Nic: Right. Okay. What would you say is your biggest barrier on the web that is directly related to ADHD?

Taylor: Definitely persistent long-running animations. Do you remember that dark time in the early web where you would have a clock following your mouse?

Nic: Oh, god. Yes. That was-

Taylor: Yeah, that’s-

Nic: … horrible.

Taylor: Yeah, that’s kind of the equivalent of even subtle things going on in the background, things like if anyone ever has their notification badge pulse slightly or usually any sort of loading widget that never goes away is pretty bad too.

Nic: Right. You mentioned a problem with links and no underline on links. How does that help you?

Taylor: Okay, yeah, so one of the symptoms, surprisingly, it’s very often comorbid, is a sleep disorder where you’re essentially shifted three or four hours back behind where everyone else should, and so to compensate, I use, I used to use f.lux for the Mac, but now the Mac has a built-in feature called Night Shift where after 6:00 p.m. or so, the screen starts sucking all the blue light out with under the hypothesis that the blue light looks like the daytime sky, and therefore keeps you awake.

What this means is, once you start sucking all the blue out of the page, all of a sudden, the links start looking black, and if there’s no other indication that they’re links, that essentially means that I miss them.

Nic: Of course. Yes.

Taylor: I think in WCAG, there is some sort of, I guess, compromise where you don’t have to underline them all the time. You can underline them only when they’re focused or hovered, but that doesn’t work for me, and I don’t think it’s going to keep working with the advent of touchscreen, so that might change soon.

Nic: Yeah. I think it’s fair to say that the accessibility guidelines are a basis, and it doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for everybody. I’m really … Well, I’m not happy that you have this problem, but I’m happy to hear you describe it because it’s something that I’ve been telling people for a long time, underline your links, it’s not going to hurt you, and it’s going to help a whole lot of people, but it’s good to hear it from a user that has a very real issue from these things, so thank you for that.

What’s the one thing you’d like web developers to remember about accessibility, or developers or designers or anybody that’s involved in building the web.

Taylor: Memento mori [Remember that you have to die], I guess? I don’t know. I guess now that I’m thinking about it, I gave a … I guess contrast would probably be the biggest one? I gave a talk about this recently where maybe a design mock-up on a designer’s screen, which is usually a very expensive and nice one, inside of a well-lit office in front of a designer who is typically extremely visually acute. That’s how they have the job. They’re highly literate, and top it all off, they made the design, so they know what it means. They are probably the worst person on earth to determine if a design is readable, it has enough contrast.

Nic: That makes sense, yup.

Taylor: Because most, now that we have Internet on our phones, you have to deal with sunlight and dirty screens and damaged screens and screens with fingerprints all over them. The list just keeps going. I gave an entire talk about this, and it lasted me 20 minutes.

Nic: Fantastic. Hey, Taylor, thank you for sharing those with us. Any last thought you want to share with us before we move on?

Taylor: No, I think I’m good.

Nic: Wonderful. Thanks a lot, Taylor.

Taylor: Thank you.

Nic: That’s it for now. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this Accessibility Soundbite, please support this show at patreon.com/steenhout.