How to Help Your Colorblind Kid

Young children need some time to grasp the concept of color naming. And often during this learning process the parents ask themselves: is my child colorblind or not?

Ronita Baras from Family Matters put together a nice list of things what parents can do if it really is the case. Have a look at the whole list in her article: Is My Kid Color Blind?

I would like to pick a few items of the whole list which I think are very important and eventually add some more.

Tips for Parents of Colorblind Children

  • Make sure all people working with your child know he or she cannot tell the difference between some colors, but do not make a big deal out of it.
  • Ask the teachers to avoid using color coding in exercises, test sheets and marking.
  • Some standard tests are color coded, so ask your child’s teacher to help your child with it.
  • Don’t try to learn colors with your kid (it won’t work!) but instead learn to understand how he or she sees the world.
  • About 8% of all people are colorblind. You might want to try to find a colorblind friend, so they can share their impressions and tricks.
  • Don’t be astonished about a bad color taste in the selection of clothes. Just help your child in choosing matching pieces.
  • Every colorblind person starts to develop some strategies to overcome the handicap. Learn them.

But the most important fact for parents of colorblind kids is: Don’t panic!

The colorblind population is quite big which means your child is definitely not alone. And in most cases color blindness doesn’t really affect their life at all. There are even completely colorblind professors—so be assured that color blindness is not really a handicap on the personal development of your child.

By the way, Ronita writes also about How to Teach Kids Colors which I think is quite useless. A child will learn the concept of colors just through everyday life. Only parents think that the naming of colors is such an important thing which should be learned much earlier. Give your children some time and they will learn it.

Photo taken by James A. Stepp

Do Blue Colorblind People Have More Sleep Disorders?

I was contacted by a phd student of the Flinders University, Adelaide. She is looking for people suffering from blue-blindness (tritan color vision defects) as this could be in relation to their sleep wake cycle.

Read more in the following sentences from Claire. And if you are interested, please contact her directly. I think it would be very interesting for all of us to learn more about this topic.

I am a new phd student starting out at Flinders University, Adelaide. I am also doing a medical degree too. It has been discovered that blue light is most effective in re-setting peoples circadium rhythm (sleep wake cycle). But exactly why and how is completely unknown.

The only way a definitive experiment could be done would be to see if someone who could not see blue could still have their circadium rhythm reset or not. It would be the first experiment of its kind because the condition is so rare. As well as publishing awareness of colour blindness, particularly rare forms, it may also lead to investigations of whether people who have defective blue photoreceptors are more likely to have sleep disorders.

The experiments are very simple. Basically the participants just have to wear a pair of glasses that shines some light into their eyes at a certain time of the day (e.g. in the morning for an allotted amount of time), then later saliva is taken to measure melatonin (indicator of circadium rhythm). No one had thought of doing it with colourblind people before, and the proffessor actually laughed at me and said it would be impossible to find anyone, anywhere with such colour blindness. But colour blindness is not as rare as people think, and I am on a mission to find them.

So anyone who could help or even just explain their condition to me would be so much appreciated. Please anyone contact me at walk0299[at]flinders.edu.au, I would be so happy just for any information on your condition, and how it affects your life in general. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Thank you so much – Claire

Claire, if you have any results ready, please let me know so I can share them with the readers of Colblindor.

LED Colorblind

LEDs are great but very troublesome for someone suffering from color blindness! I don’t know why, but the colors used with LEDs are in most cases indistinguishable for me and therefore not usable the way they should be.

Here comes my story which happened just the other day and shows one more time, why colorblind men are suffering under LED lights:

I bought a new wlan router and when I started it up all the lights turned on, one after the other. So far everything ok. But then the connection didn’t work and the story begins.

At this moment I didn’t think about the colors of the lights. They were on and that’s what they supposed to be in my colorblind eyes. So I started looking for the error, tried several settings, restarted the router many times and so on. After about an hour I started to think about the colors of the LEDs: “Are they really green? Or maybe yellow?”

As I couldn’t tell what colors they were I asked my not colorblind son who is 3.5 years old. He started naming the colors from the left side: “Yellow, yellow, red.” — “What?!”

I asked my son again and again. Telling him that he might mix up the colors. In the end he really was mixed up and started to say what I wanted to hear from him, that all the lights show the same light…

Now here comes the funny part of the story: As I couldn’t make it work I called the support line. A nice women tried to help me to fix the problem. When she asked for the colors…. Well, I said for me they look ok, but my son tells me something different. She couldn’t really believe that I couldn’t tell her if one light is red or not. I felt so stupid and I thought she thinks I’m stupid.

After the unfortunately fruitless telephone call I remembered my little tool Seekey. And this time I thought: “Wow! My son is right, I’m wrong, and I’m really so stupid.” Through the Seekey I could see that there really was a difference between the lights. I still couldn’t tell the colors, but at least knew that there is something going wrong.

Isn’t this incredible. Just some little LED lights can make your time sometimes so frustrating. I still can’t tell if the lights are red or yellow. And if you say they are green, I would believe it. — And again my request: If you are working with LEDs make sure that your colorblind friends can also see the colors!

Dear readers,
Tell me and be honest: can you see a difference in color between this picture and the first one? – I definitely can not.

By the way, the story with the broken router was done after a few more calls and a whole afternoon of searching for the bug.

PS: I asked my son one more time to confirm, that the colors are really different. He said: “Yellow, yellow, red” and smiled at me… And hey, my wife just said she would call it green-green-red. Now if even the not colorblind aren’t sure how can I ever be sure? :-)

Color Blindness Seen by Colorblind Boys

Color vision deficiency is in 99% of all cases inherited from the parents to their children. In this case, the boys and girls will be colorblind for their whole lifetime—like most of us colorblind fellows.

If it is not only a weak form of color blindness, the parents will often recognize it between the age of 3 and 10 years. After the diagnosis mothers and fathers are looking for information to help their children. But what about the young boys and girls themselves? Can they understand such an abstract thing as color blindness, what do they think about it and how colorful is their life?

I put together a questionnaire of seven simple questions and had the chance to get them answered by two young boys. Let’s call them Six and Eleven, according to their age.

Simple questionnaire for colorblind children

What are your favorite colors?
Six: Black…. (pause)… and red.
Eleven: Red and black.

Do you like to paint colorful pictures?
Six: No!, well I guess I would. (Interviewer comment: I think his initial answer was because he doesn’t really do much art.)
Eleven: No way!
What do you see if you look at the childrens testing poster?
Six: (Interviewer: He didn’t really see anything.)
Eleven: Nothing.

What does “color blindness” mean to you?
Six: It means people’s colours are different colours.
Eleven: That someone that is colour blind sees colours all messed up.

Can you see rainbows?
Six: Yes.
Eleven: Yes.

What colors have the following animals: elephant, tiger, fox, flamingo, bee, frog, and parrot?
Six: Grey; black & orange; brown, maybe?; pink & black; yellow & black; green; all colours.
Eleven: Grey; black, white & orange; red & white; pink; yellow & black; green; rainbow.

Which colors can you seen on this picture of a clown?
Six: (Interviewer: He pointed at colours and correctly named them – but he had some troubles in the transition yellow, green, blue area.)
Eleven: Umm… Lots.

This are great answers aren’t they? I like it how the two boys find some simple and obvious explanations for color blindness. And even if they really have some problems with colors their life is still very colorful. I hope this are some happy news if you are one of those moms or dads who just found out about the color vision deficiency of your child.

Thanks to Tanya, a mother of two colorblind boys, for going through the questionnaire with Six and Eleven.

Photo taken by Tim Pierce.

Color Blind: Which Are Your Blind Colors?

Here is an interesting definition of blind colors: “Colors that are not or not completely recognized by a gray-level scanner.” When I look at my personal color blindness this fits quite well. Compared to people with normal vision I sometimes really think that my eyes are some type of advanced gray-level scanners—but not more.

What I am looking for are the colors we colorblind people have problems to see or distinguish.

color confusion protan deutan tritan
red/orange/yellow/green X X
brown/green X X
Threshold green to white X X
Threshold red to white X X
blue-green/grey/red-purple X
green/grey/blue-purple X
red/black X
green/black X
violet/yellow-green X
red/red-purple X
dark blue/black X
yellow/white X

This first list of colors which are confused by color deficient people is taken from the book Diagnosis of Defective Colour Vision by Jennifer Birch. It is important to know, that these colors are only mixed if there exists no luminance contrast.

From my perspective as a strongly red-blind (protanopia) guy I would say the above list is a quite good image of my color perception. They do also fit with the colors along the so called confusion lines of the corresponding type of color blindness.

I would like to add my personal list of color blind colors which I often can not distinguish. And I also would like to add some examples to them, so somebody with normal vision might be able to imagine a little bit how it feels to be colorblind.

Protan Confusion Colors

dark red/black: If I get an email with words highlighted in red, I can’t see them.
grass green/orange: I couldn’t spot an orange laying in my lawn.
leaf green/red: No red blossoms in trees and no red apples in trees.
bright green/yellow: I can’t see if a banana is ripe or not.
indian summer colors: It’s colorful, but I have no chance to name the colors.
dark blue/violet: I’ll never know what the difference is.
cyan/gray: All shades of blue-green look truly colorless to me.
brown/green/red: Please, don’t talk about red animals in the forest.

I suppose there are many more shades and colors I can’t really see. But this is a list of colors which I often come across and have big problems to identify and classify.

So what are your colors of confusion, problem colors, color blind colors? It would be very interesting to hear also from you which colors cause you the biggest problems.

Named Pencils for the Colorblind

If you are suffering a moderate to strong color blindness, it’s always a hassle if you have a crayon box in front of you full of colored pencils. – How about naming them? Could this help?

Named Non Colored Crayons

A french student from a packaging design class had just this idea. All white crayons named with the corresponding color.

Her professor says: “After all isn’t color subjective? Think of the colorblind people for example. So here’s the objective set of color pencils.”

Ok. I am colorblind and think about it. And I think it’s of no use for us colorblind. Why?

As a colorblind person I have great difficulties in seeing, differentiating and specially naming colors. So if I see a certain color I can’t tell you if it is red or green, because I can not see it.

Now, let’s imagine I grab a colored pencil which is just plain white only with its color name printed on it. I actually don’t really know how this color looks like as I don’t know which name corresponds to the color I see. Ok, if I know the color of a certain thing it could help (I learned that leaves are green—most of the time). But otherwise the name is not a clue for me at all.

What I need is to see the color so I can compare it if it really is the one I need. And even if I see it, there is still a big chance that I still will mess them up. So names are for nothing and colors are unfortunately not much better.

Online Farnsworth D-15 Dichotomous Color Blindness Test

D-15 Color Arrangement Test

I’m happy to announce that I just released a new color blindness test. It is the most famous D-15 dichotomous test which was originally introduced in 1947 by Mr. Farnsworth.

The D-15 test is a so called arrangement test. This type of color blindness tests are based on a set of colored plates or discs which have to be arranged in the correct order. Colorblind people will have difficulties to arrange the given colors and make mistakes. Based on this mistakes and the resulting confusion vector, the type of your color blindness and as well its severity can be calculated.

D-15 Protan Test Result

This pictures shows my personal test result. The 16 squares, which have to be arranged in the test, are shown in a circle—which would be the correct sequence. The thick line shows the order I’ve chosen and in this case P-15-1-14-2-3-13-12-4-5-11-10-6-7-9-8.

According to the scoring technique of Vingrys and King-Smith this results in a confusion angle of 1.2 degrees and a confusion index of 3.70.

Or in other words I am suffering from a strong protan color vision deficiency, which corresponds with the diagnosis of my eye specialist.

What the D-15 color arrangement test can do:

… and what this color blindness test can not do:

  • Detect some weak forms of color vision deficiency.
  • Differentiate between dichromacies and anomalous trichromacies.

Go ahead and check out the online D-15 Farnsworth test and learn some more details about your color vision abilities—or maybe disabilities.

“Dad, Can’t You See Those Colors?”

I am red-green colorblind and my son is not.

Last week we were with the whole family on ski holidays. It was snowing almost the whole week long. Not really good weather, but anyway we had a good time with all the snow.

One day together with my 3 yo. son we took some plastic plates which are meant to sit on and slide down the hills, like some sort of sledges. One of them in a bright yellow and the other one in a bright green. Both very bright colors.

When we stood on the hill my son said: “I take the green one, you can have the yellow sledge.”

I said: “Which is the green one?”

He looked at me — puzzled. (What does he mean? Why does he ask me that? One is green and one is yellow, that’s for sure. Is my father to stupid to see that?)

My son said: “Can’t you see the colors?”

I said: “No, I’m sorry.”

And I suppose, he forgot about it again just in that very moment. A next situation like this will arrive soon, I’m sure.

Red-Green Color Blindness Doesn’t Exist

Hey, everybody knows that red-green color blindness is the most common type of color vision deficiency. How can I claim that it doesn’t exist at all? – I’ve got not only one but three reasons which support my statement that there is no type of color vision deficiency which really deserves the name red-green color blindness.

Red and Green Peppers

Only Gray Peppers?

When you realize or get told that one of your friends is colorblind, most probably you remember the term red-green color blind and try to imagine, what this means:

  • My friend can neither see red nor green?
  • He can’t distinguish those two colors at all?
  • Besides red and green he has no problems with colors?
  • Or maybe red and green look like gray to him?

This is all wrong and the reason why I say, that there is no such form of color deficiency which should be called red-green color blindness. And here are my three arguments which strongly support the sentence: Red-green color blindness doesn’t exist.

(1) Red-green color blindness doesn’t exist, because there are really two distinct forms: red-blindness (protanopia/protanomaly) and green-blindness (deuteranopia/deuteranomaly). Protan defects are caused by a shift of the peak of the red sensitive cones in your eye towards the green peak, or if they are missing at all. For deutan defects the same is true for the green sensitive cones. And even if the naming sounds like a combination of both, you are suffering just under one of them.

(2) Red-green color blindness doesn’t exist, because if you are colorblind you will encounter problems with colors from the whole color spectrum. There is no such color vision deficiency which is only focusing on certain colors like red or green. The so called confusion lines can give you a quite good understanding of how a color spectrum is seen by color blind people.

(3) Red-green color blindness doesn’t exist, because if you are really colorblind, you really can see only in gray. This is called monochromacy or achromatopsia, which affects only a handful of all color blind people. In this case it doesn’t make sense to talk about any colors at all. On the other side, if you have only problems with your red, green or blue sensitive cones, this isn’t actually color blindness but some form of color vision deficiency. Or as I put it in another article: Color Blindness is not ‘Color Blindness’.

If you still think, that you are suffering from red-green color blindness, have a look at Which Type of Red-Green Color Blindness is It? and learn more about the real type of your color vision deficiency.

Foto taken by Martin LaBar

Colblindor Featured in Vision Testing: A Blind Spot In Occupational Safety

Occupational Health & Safety is the industry-leading news magazine, eNewsletter, and website for occupational health and safety professionals. The February issue 2009 will feature the topic “Vision Testing: A Blind Spot In Occupational Safety”, including web links to Colblindor, as a resource about color blindness.

What is the article all about?

The author claims, that vision is often not checked regularly if you compare it to hearing or blood pressure. And this causes that many employees are short sighted, have no depth perception, are night blind, or are suffering from color vision deficiency—unrecognized from their employers—whereas this handicaps can be real safety problems.

As an employer you should ask yourself:

  • When did your employees have the last vision check?
  • Is some aspect of vision crucial for their job?
  • Should you introduce some vision tests in the recruitment process?

I can’t judge all aspects of the article. But I can judge the part about color vision, which is unfortunately not very well researched. All they say is that color blindness could be a problem for drivers because of the traffic lights. I think this is a bit to superficial. You can find my opinion on this topic at: Colorblind at the Traffic Light.

Anyway, thanks for linking me up.