Updated 17 July 2014

Mall's lights affect epileptics in Pietermaritzburg

Epilepsy SAhas intervened after being informed about flashing lights at Liberty Midlands Mall in Pietermaritzburg causing people with Photosensitive Epilepsy to have seizures.


Epilepsy South Africa intervened after being informed about a situation at Liberty Midlands Mall in Pietermaritzburg at the beginning of September.

Dr Moores, a medical doctor in the area, contacted the National Office of Epilepsy South Africa informing them of the flashing lights at the mall’s amusement park. The flashing lights were causing people with Photosensitive Epilepsy to have seizures and there are currently no warning signs anywhere in the mall making people aware of the flashing lights.

Photosensitive Epilepsy is a type of epilepsy in which most seizures are triggered by flashing or flickering lights. Both natural and artificial lights may trigger these seizures. Some patterns like stripes or checks can also trigger seizures for some people. Other triggers include ceiling fans, cinema films, television and computer monitors.

Warning signs needed

Five out of every hundred people suffer from Photosensitive Epilepsy. The word ‘hertz’ (Hz) refers to how often something happens in a second. Photosensitive Epilepsy hertz refers to the number of flashes or flickers a second, and the rate at which the scanning lines on televisions and computer monitors ‘refresh’ themselves. Most people with Photosensitive Epilepsy are sensitive to 16-25Hz, although some people may be sensitive to rates as low as 3Hz and as high as 60Hz.

Due to the nature and sensitivity of this type of epilepsy, Epilepsy South Africa made contact with Liberty Midlands Mall’s Centre Management, asking them to please consider putting up signs at the entrance of the amusement park warning people that the lights may cause seizures.

These signs are very important as the lights are not only flashing in the amusement park, but also in the surrounding restaurants, making it a very high-risk area for people living with Photosensitive Epilepsy. 

Liberty Midland Mall responded by saying that the mall has a notice at the entrance warning people who enter the centre that they do so at their own risk. They also stated that they handed Dr Moores’ letter over to the tenant and advised the tenant of Epilepsy South Africa’s concerns with regards to the flashing lights.

Says Marina Clarke, National Director of Epilepsy South Africa: “This is a very serious matter for us as the risks involved for people with Photosensitive Epilepsy visiting the mall are enormous. It is vital that people put up warning signs in areas where the flashing or flickering lights could trigger a seizure for someone with this type of epilepsy.”

For more information about Epilepsy South Africa, contact the organisation on 0860 374 537.

(Press release, November 2012)

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Living with epilepsy


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