Color Blindness is not ‘Color Blindness’

Most people connect the term color blindness to blindness and color, which tells them, that if you are colorblind you can see only black and white or maybe grayscale pictures. Only when they talk to somebody who really is colorblind or read something about color blindness, they find out, that they are wrong.

Color blindness is just the most common term for describing all different types of vision conditions which relate to a less broader color spectrum. If you are affected by color blindness you can see less colors than a “normal” human being but not none.

If we have a look at the terminology there are three different well known terms to describe this disability:

  • Color Vision Deficiency: This is the most accurate term. It is mostly used in scientific papers or from doctors. It describes the actual handicap to the point but it is not well known in common speech.
  • Daltonism: This term is derived from the 18th century researcher John Dalton. Himself colorblind he did some investigations and described the phenomenon for the first time in a scientific paper. The naming is still used in some languages and is also related to all types of color vision deficiency.
  • Color Blindness: This is the most common term although it is misleading. Maybe it made the run in common speech because it’s just easier to say “he is colorblind” than “he has a color vision deficiency”.

All three terms relate to the same phenomenon: People or animals who can’t see colors as “normal” human beings can see colors.

Maybe we need to have a quick look at how a “normal” human being actually can see. If you are not suffering from a color vision deficiency, you have three different cone types inside your eyes. Each of this has a special color spectrum it relates to and sends signals to the visual system. All three signals, which can be stronger or weaker, are mixed up to one distinct color inside your visual system.

If you are colorblind usually there is something wrong with one of those different cone types. Either they are faulty or missing at all. This means you still can see colors but less. Maybe less diverse, less shades, less colors and definitely less colorful. But not to be mixed up with a black&white picture. Those are only grayscale pictures or looked at it differently – brightness pictures.

Colorblind people can see colors. They can see blue and violet, green and yellow, red and orange and a lot more. Maybe just a bit less colorful here and a bit less colorful there, which makes them having bigger problems to distinguish colors. But anyway, they definitely can see colors.