Fluorescent Lights Are The Devil

Ironwork chandelier with upward-facing, frosted-glass sconces which bounce light off ceiling

The frosted, upward-facing sconces of this chandelier bounce light off the ceiling, creating bright work lighting that doesn’t cause eyestrain with hot spots.


You hate them. I hate them. We all hate them. But autistic people hate them the most.

Recently I stumbled across a blog post entitled ‘The Horror of Fluorescent Lights as an Autistic Person.’ The author, Kirsty Kendall, is very, very angry, and very, very informed. She provides some eye-opening citations:

A study reveals that volunteers performed best on symbol identification and color recognition tasks when exposed to high color temperature LED lights.

The volunteers experienced increased fatigue when they were exposed to fluorescent lights. They also showed slower response times on tasks that measured spatial and verbal memory.

The study concludes LED lights improve alertness and visual cognitive efficiency in workers.

Another study compared the influence of LED lighting and fluorescent lights on student engagement in a classroom.

The study suggests that LED lights have a positive effect on children too. The students showed more engagement under LED lighting.

Temple Grandin states that autistic people can see the 60 khz flicker produced by fluorescent bulbs, and thus cannot form a consistent image in their visual cortex under fluorescent lighting.

Research indicates that fluorescent lights trigger migraines, fatigue, and reduced productivity in both adults and children, whether they’re autistic or not.

And yet, they’re still the universal building standard for most institutions.

This must change. Lighting which causes the majority of people significant physical distress means that our institutions are not functionally accessible. It’s a health issue, an inclusion issue, an environmental issue.

Kirsty Kendall recommends that we switch to LEDs. I would go farther and say that we should preference non-fluorescent lighting which is both filtered and indirect, like the fixture here. Bouncing bright light off a light-colored ceiling provides adequate task lighting without causing burning hot spots in the retina.

Not sure how to integrate sensory lighting into your home or workplace? Practical Sanctuary can help. Book a consultation with us and experience the joy of sensory accessible surroundings. 

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