In praise of reading

Migraine aura.
Last week I had a 5-day migraine, or maybe that was 6 migraines in 5 days. That's my annual allowance in a single week.

I tell you not to gain sympathy (oh all right, if you insist) but because it reminded me just how amazing our faculty of sight is. And especially the gift of reading. I bang on about accessibility all the time, but the problems for me personally are largely hypothetical. In real life, I can usually read and write. How marvellous is that?

But last week text splintered into bits and bobs, holes appeared in paragraphs, book pages pulsed with yellow and grey polka dots, staircases and shells and sparkling diamonds competed for my attention, and I could not fixate on more than one word at a time.

And although I am a gun touch typist, errors; ega appearing on mewhave i wort. [Sic: that was a demo.] I couldn't recognise a typo if it jumped off the screen and bit me; it was just another blur. Moreover, the words I wanted were often just out of -- what's that word -- stretch, beach, windsurfer, pie -- reach!

Nothing new here, just the duration of that particular brain blitz in the experience of one of the world's neurologically privileged. A migraine is a small stroke. We don't like them.

But after my second visit to the GP I came away relieved that this was "only" a migraine. It passed. It got no worse. It's not eye disease or a brain tumour. Which means this week I revert to reading with ease.

Lucky people like me take sight and reading for granted. Even so, it's not easy reading on a screen. Computer work is the main cause of a heck of a lot of people's migraines. I'm fine today, but super-sensitised, I dare say. I can still see glimmering patches of light and shadow on the screen, and those letters are not entirely still. I dare say our clever brains usually edit out these flaws.

When writing web content, have mercy on your readers. Orderliness and white space help us. So does conciseness. So I'll stop now.

1 comment

Jul 05, 2008 • Posted by Read today and gone tomorrow | KnowIT

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