I’ll never forget the day I found out that I was color blind. I was in junior high science class. We were in the media center and our teacher introduced us to the concept of color blindness. This was the first time that I had ever seen a test like this. He asked everyone to take a look at a jumble of dots on the board. The first one I saw just fine, but most of the others were either incredibly difficult to make out or I couldn’t decipher them at all. The science teacher was showing us images similar to the ones on the left. It was the Ishihara test for color blindness.
As luck would have it, I was the only one in the entire class that was having such an issue with the pictures. Everyone else could just rattle off these numbers, but to me most were just a collection of dots. The event turned quite embarrassing for me, as most of the kids just laughed and then started whispering to their friends as if I was somehow less human or an oddity now. Junior high is awkward enough, but now I was the king of the awkward.
This was the day where I had to start answering these questions every time it came out that I had this hereditary condition: “Can you see green?” “Can you see red?” “What color is this?” It is simply amazing how misunderstood this condition is. I also don’t think people realize how much this misunderstanding can affect people.
Color blindness is an inherited condition(usually anyway) most common in men ( 8-12 percent of white men, and less than one half of one percent in women). The basic definition of color blindness comes in three basic flavors. There is the very rare condition of total color blindness, where a person sees their world in shades of black, white, and gray. Blue-yellow color blindness is also quite rare, and as the name implies, these people struggle with colors in shades of blue and yellow. The last classification is red-green color blindness. This is, by far the most common version of the condition. Individuals with this last aspect have issues with shades of red and green.
In my case, I am red-green color blind. The first thing people do when they hear this is immediately point to something red or something green and ask if I can tell what color it is. The short answer to that is, yes I can see green and I can see red. The label color blind is something of a misnomer. Really the condition should really be labeled as having a color deficiency and not blindness to color altogether. Much like other traits you have such as your finger prints, color blindness is unique to the person. My issues really only flare up on two occasions. In really low light some greens for me will turn grey or black (no not stoplights at night, it’s more subtle than that). Secondly, if two shades of green are close together and are very similar, they may blend together or create a bit of a grey shift too. It is hard to describe, but that’s what happens for me.
My own version of color blindness is unique to me. Someone else, who is also classified as red-green, might have a different sensitivity or other colors that cause issues. This is because it all depends on what the eyes are deficient in. There are three different types of cones in the eye that decide how it picks up colors. Now color blindness results when one of these cones are missing, or is simply not working properly.
One of the unfortunate consequences of this condition is that some people, who would otherwise be qualified to do so, are disqualified from holding certain jobs because they are being labeled as color blind. Frequently the people who do the testing for this are not trained well, and they simply rubber stamp individuals with the condition and don’t investigate the severity and specific limitations, if any, the condition presents to the person. This has resulted in people not being able to get employment (for jobs requiring good color vision such as electricians, and pilots, and such) even though in many cases they would probably be able to do the job.
Before pursuing this post, I had not considered that this condition is often classified as a mild disability. Frankly, it has never hindered me from doing anything I have wanted to do. At worst, it has just been a minor inconvenience, and the root of several jokes shared between my family and myself. I don’t really consider myself disabled in any way. I just can’t decipher the stupid dots on the top of this page.
- Color blindness – All Information (umm.edu)
- Augmented Reality For Color Blindness (scienceroll.com)
- Is Your Child Color-Blind? (everydayhealth.com)