April 26, 2013 – It isn't often that you hear or know of someone that has colour blindness, in fact it would be a very rare occasion, but last January at a company meeting, Stanka Niedra, our Sales Manager, commented on a Director's hot pink, cell phone and Jack Smith nonchalantly responded, "I wouldn't know - I'm colour blind". Hearing these words spawned enigmatic, facial reactions and within a moment's notice we were all listening to him talk about his experiences as a child and as a teenager – some wildly funny but some very sad. His lifelong disability became an adventurous avenue of communication through his eyes, which he delivered with insightful, perceptive timing and an acquired, comedic edge.
In his early school days Jack thought he was supposed to 'learn' colours because he couldn't actually see them and he could not understand why people always said the 'grass was green' when through his eyes the grass was always brown.
Jack's kindergarten Report Card stated, "He is good with his numbers but still does not know his colours." His colour blindness only came to the forefront when in Grade 4 he completed an aptitude test consisting of coloured dots with symbols that were displayed with an overhead projector in a darkened classroom. He was quite anxious to see what the other children were writing down as responses to questions that he could not comprehend. Two days later Jack and two other boys were sent down to the Principal's office because they failed the test. "Don't you see the symbols?" the Principal asked. Jack responded with a lie, "Oh yes, now I see them," but the truth is that he did not see them at all. He was just too embarrassed to admit it.
"I attended an all boy school called 'East End High School' that was almost like a vocational school with lots of tough kids. Having a part-time job I could buy my own clothes and usually went to Honest Ed's, a department store in Toronto," said Jack. One day he went to purchase denim jeans and without knowing it, they were purple. He attended his first day of school wearing purple jeans and the other kids teased him endlessly. The following day he returned to school wearing a different pair of blue jeans and got into a big fight because he was actually wearing pink jeans. When he returned home from school, he had a black eye and bloody nose.
In regards to the colours of traffic lights, Jack does not see traffic lights like a person with normal vision - he sees yellow in the red and no colour in the green. He learned to distinguish traffic lights by their position.
While attending high school Jack could not take 'Electrical Construction' because he could not differentiate between the coloured wires, and when he pursued a career within the police force, he had to complete a few visual tests but instinctively knew he would not do well. The recruiting officer told him he failed the tests because he was colour blind. Oddly enough, this is the first time Jack heard the words 'colour blind'.
What is Colour Blindness?
8% of all men suffer from some form of colour blindness and less than 1% of women have some form of colour blindness. It is important to note that it is rare among people of Asian, First Nations or African descent. Colour blindness is the inability to differentiate certain colours with the most common being red and green.
While there can be various causes for colour blindness, largely it is inherited by a mutated X chromosome. Men only have one X chromosome so if they inherit a mutated X chromosome from their mother they will be colour blind. Women have two X chromosomes and therefore less likely to be colour blind. If one of the X chromosomes is genetically mutated, the normal one will take precedence and the woman will see properly but remain a carrier – offering her sons a 50% chance of being colour blind, and her daughters will have a 50% chance of being carriers.
Colour blindness can also occur by accident and head trauma that causes injury to the retina or optic nerve, Shaken Baby Syndrome, overexposure to UV Rays and disease such as diabetes.
What are the Different Types of Colour Blindness?
Red Green Colour Blind – most common
- Dichromacy (protanopia and deuteranopia)
- Anomalous trichromacy (protanomaly and deuteranomaly)
Blue Yellow Colour Blind
- Dichromacy (tritanopia)
- Anomalous trichromacy (tritanomaly)
Total Colour Blindness - least common
If you would like to read detailed descriptions of the medical terms above, please click here.
Testing for Colour Blindness
Dr. Shinobu Ishihara, a professor at the University of Tokyo created a series of plates to identify red green colour blindness.
To Take the Test NOW!
Click on Colour blindness test
Living with Colour Blindness
Some people live their entire life with a mild form of colour blindness and do not know it. Other people are reminded on a daily basis of the inconvenience and multiple risks of their disability. People with colour blindness have difficulty discerning traffic lights, coordinating their clothes, watching weather forecasts, and knowing whether fruit are ripe or food is cooked but perhaps the biggest frustration is not being able to pursue the career of their choice such as design, the police force and electrical engineering – where sensitivity and precision in identifying colours is a prerequisite.
Most colour blind people were born with this mutated gene and have lived their entire lives adapting to the disadvantages from a very young age. Children that have colour vision problems can have difficulty with learning and reading development, which can often lead to poor schoolwork and low self-esteem. Vision screening is recommended for all children at least once before entering school, preferably between the ages of 3 and 4.
Children's Telltale Signs of Colour Blindness
- Your child is teased if he makes a mistake in identifying a colour.
- Your child is teased by other children because his clothes don't match.
- Your child has a low attention span when colouring in work sheets.
- Your child has trouble understanding what the teacher is describing or referring to because he can’t see the colour in question.
- Your child uses the wrong colour pencil or crayon to colour an object, i.e. purple leaves on trees and brown grass. Dark colours are used inappropriately.
- Your child cannot identify and differentiate between red and green colour pencils.
- Your child has difficulty locating items in the grass.
- Your child has difficulty discerning the difference between two teams in a sports match.
- Your child is not sure what people mean when they say 'pale' colours.
- Your child might experience difficulty playing some sections of computer games.
- Your child cannot tell if the lights are on or off on game consoles.
- Your child will smell his food before eating it.
- Your child experiences sensitivity to bright lights.
- Your child might complain that his eyes or his head hurts when he's looking at something red on a green background, or vice versa.
Children with colour blindness fear being bullied, ridiculed and laughed at by their classmates and therefore, will internalize daily repercussions and occurrences by displaying some of the following reactions:
- Shy away from friends, family and teachers when the subject is colours
- Feel embarrassment in not knowing what is basic knowledge to others
- Feel stupid, slow or inept because younger children understand colours
- Display ambivalence in trying new foods because they look horrible
- Display aversion to playing sports because the team colours are confusing
Proactive Measures for Kids at School
- Tell your friends and teachers that you are colour blind. Most people find it interesting and will not only want to understand you but also want to help you.
- If you are having problems discerning colours during a lesson in class tell your teacher right away so that you do not lag behind in your studies.
- Choose the best seating area in your classroom where there is no glare or reduced brightness.
- Most lessons in class appear on the blackboard so consider asking your teacher to use a colour of chalk that you can see.
- Ask your teacher to label colours in pictures with words or symbols, that can help cue you with colour recognition.
- Some schools allow students with colour blindness to use special Apps for iPads and iPhones. Download the iDaltonizer App and use the Daltonize tool to help you tell different colours apart, i. e. geography atlases, graphs and charts. iDaltonizer can be customized and fine-tuned to your specific needs - not only to a particular type of colour blindness but also to each person's unique vision.
- Daltonizer is a colour blindness simulator application that uses a camera device. It can be used to illustrate how a colour blind person sees the world or to ensure that the colours you choose for school work can be seen by a colour-blind person. Several colour modes are included - Protanopia, Deuteranopia, and Tritanopia. The app also allows you to compare color blindness with normal vision by using a split-screen view.
- Many computer games are not easy for people that suffer from colour blindness. Before you decide to purchase a new computer game, do some research and find out if it has a 'Colour Blind Friendly Setting'.
Facts about Colour Blindness
- 99% of all colour blind people are not really colour blind but colour deficient; the term 'colour blindness' is misleading. Colour Vision Deficiency would be a better and more accurate term.
- “What colour is this?” is the most annoying question you can ask your colour blind friend.
- Severity of colour blindness is usually divided into the following four categories: slightly, moderate, strong, and absolute.
- A father can’t pass his red-green colour blindness to his sons.
- If a woman is red-green colour blind, her sons will also be colour blind.
- Colour blind people feel handicapped in everyday life.
- 99% of all colour blind people suffer from red-green colour blindness.
- In certain countries, you need normal colour vision to get a driver's licence.
- More women than men are carriers of colour blindness, even though they are not colour blind themselves.
- Some people are rejected from a job assignment because of their colour vision deficiency.
- The anomaloscope is the most accurate colour blindness test known today.
- The most common careers that require normal colour vision are police officers, firefighters and airline pilots.
- The International Colour Vision Society investigates every aspect of colour vision and colour vision deficiency.
- Quite a lot of people with normal colour vision will not pass an Ishihara plates test free of errors.
- People with colour vision problems can see differences between colours better if they wear glasses that block glare and brightness.