Do Color Blind People Perceive a Colorful Life?

Sarah contacted me to learn more on how color-blind people perceive our colorful world. Everybody can generate images which simulate this visual handicap with my color blindness simulator Coblis. But this isn’t the whole story, as those pictures can’t tell you how colorblind people think about this colorful—or in this case colorless—world.

Sarah put together some really interesting questions concerning the perception of color and how I handle this as a quite strongly colorblind man. Here are my answers to her questionnaire:

Colorful Dancer

Colorful Dancer

Sarah: I’m interested in the perception of color to one’s self, mostly. How do you describe colors to yourself (when others are not around)? For instance, what does ‘colorful’ mean to you? Do you conjure up an image of rich blues, yellows, and whites, or do you include red and green (what you perceive to be red and green, anyway) in that definition?

Colblindor: I included this picture as an example for what colorful means to me. If it includes red or green, I can’t tell you. So I can not tell you which colors I explicitly include to name something colorful as I can’t name them. I would say a colorful thing needs at least three to four clearly distinguishable colors for me. This could also be a fire truck red and a grass green combined with some blue or yellow. On the other side I can tell you that there are certain pictures which are not colorful for my eyes but seem to be colorful if you are not colorblind yourself.

Sarah: In your own mind (just yourself, all alone), do you describe the world around you in shades of blue and yellow, or do you throw red and green into the mix? For example, if you saw a brightly lit Christmas tree, would you say to yourself that you see a lot of blue and yellow lights, or would you describe colors you think might be red, green, purple, etc.?

Colblindor: If you dig a little deeper into the topic of color blindness you can learn, that moderate to strong color-blind people have problems along the whole color spectrum (see Colorblind Colors of Confusion). I am strongly red-blind and therefore have also problems for example with blue/violet/purple or blue-green/gray/purple. — Personally I would say I don’t attach color names to my visual perception. I only name them when somebody else asks about it and this very often puts me into a position, where I just can’t name it or even describe it properly.

Sarah: Do you describe things to yourself as being red/green/etc. when the situation does not call for a need to tell the exact color? For example, grass is green and everyone is taught this at a young age, but when you’re just walking around by yourself, do you ever mistake grass for being yellow/another color (before remembering it’s green)?

Colblindor: As I described above I don’t really actively perceive colors attributing names to them, only if I learned the color of something (green grass). In this case I just know the color name but don’t clearly perceive it. Therefore I can’t really say that I sometimes mistake anything for having a wrong color. Sometimes I get confused if I know something always has a certain color (for example red) and I perceive it completely differently. In this case I ask myself if this is really the color it should be or if the source of the problem is somewhere else.

Colorful Rainbow

Colorful Rainbow

Sarah: I can use certain color filters that show me what some images might look like to someone with a color vision deficiency. To my color normal eyes, these filters for red-green deficiency make a rainbow look like a streak of yellow in the sky. Is that how you would describe it too? If not, how do you perceive it?

Colblindor: Rainbows look like rainbows. Rainbows are not to colorful for my eyes but anyway a beautiful phenomenon. In colors I would say blue-something-yellow-some other color streak. By the way, the picture wall on this image looks very colorful to me, even if I can’t tell you at all which colors I see.

Sarah wants to learn a lot more about color blindness. She says: “I’d love to talk to anyone with any form of color vision deficiency”. So if you feel like chatting just contact her directly at sarahvas84@gmail.com.

Rainbow photo by Cavin