As a chronic migraine sufferer, I have two major triggers: strong chemical smells and flashing lights. Each time I encounter these triggers is like being shot at with rock salt. Am I hit every time? No, but it’s been enough times that I do my best to avoid the possibility of being shot. Over the years, I have figured out where I am most likely to face these triggers: for example regarding smells, insensitive coworkers who don’t take migraines seriously are a serious danger. Spraying fragrances in the air instead of utilizing better ventilation and cleaning is the same as someone walking into my office and announcing, well, “Debbie took a dump, so I’m going to have to shoot you now.”
“Why can’t Debbie just clean the bathroom? If you shoot me, it’s still going to smell like poop in the office, just lavender-flavored.”
“Yeah, we thought about it. We’d rather shoot you and have lavender-flavored poop.”
Sometimes it’s obvious what I would be walking in to and I avoid it. Laser light shows are the same as rock salt wars: it’s very obvious that I will get taken down, and I don’t have to go. Concerts that I want to see may or may not have lasers and spotlights, so back in the day if I really, really wanted to go, I used to bring meds and eye protection and try to duck. I am older and wiser, and I would much rather listen to my favorite singers on YouTube than risk more brain welts.
For the purpose of doing some sound design work at home, I bought a Novation Launchpad X. The description of “fully customizable” light up keys, to my mind, meant I didn’t have to use the light up feature to access the other features. Being able to customize a feature should include the right not to use it. I didn’t realize that a mandatory light show would happen every time it was plugged in and another even longer lasting one when the computer idles. I called customer support service to ask how to disable this function and gave a brief description of why I needed to do so. I was told there wasn’t a way to stop the light show other than to unplug the product I just spent $180 on. This conversation to me was the equivalent of:
“Hey, I know that there is the option to be blasted with rock salt when I use this product, but I would very much like not to be hit with rock salt. It hurts.”
“Well, thank you for your money, but you will be hit with at least a little rock salt every time you use our services.”
“I request an accommodation of never. I don’t like pain.”
“Then don’t use our products.”
“You don’t even need to blast rock salt at everyone. It serves no function!”
We have reached the point where there is no excuse for companies not to make their products as accessible as possible for a wide range of people. According to Migraine Trust, migraines are the third most common disease, the seventh most disabling disease, and impact three times more women than men. 38% of migraine sufferers report that light is a trigger. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder, and, per Cedars-Sinai, photosensitive epilepsy’s triggers include flashing lights and patterns.
Requiring exposure to flashing lights in order to use a product when it isn’t the primary function of said product is ableist. And it’s a particularly outdated approach for a holding of Focusrite, whose mission is “removing barriers to creativity.”
 Randolph W. Evans, MD. “The Clinical Features of Migraine with and Without Aura.” Practical Neurology, April 2014. https://practicalneurology.com/articles/2014-apr/the-clinical-features-of-migraine-with-and-without-aura