Ashamed of Color Blindness

I remember this story as the first time I really realized that my vision of colors is different to others. I suppose I knew before that I was suffering from color blindness, but I couldn’t really classify it until this morning at school. It was the my second year at primary school and we were painting with water colors. I am not a great painter, neither I was at that time but I colored a nice landscape. Some hills and grass, maybe a house, the sun, everything was nice and colorful until, yes until I started to fill in the sky.

Blue, of course it had to be blue. And what a nice blue I mixed together. So I started painting on one side making my way to the middle of the picture. Suddenly an other child stopped by started giggeling and pointed at my sky color.

Yes, what a shame, it was all pink.

I really felt ashame. How could I possibly mismatch those two colors? I tried to cover the messed up part of my picture but it didn’t really work out. So my sky was blueish-pinkish. Great. I remember that I couldn’t stand it that I colored this last part of my painting just with a completely wrong color. Color blindness simply presented on an otherwise wonderful piece of art. Now I even could make out the difference. As soon as they told me, I could see that I have chosen the wrong color. But it was to late, to late to fix it. What a shame.

Is color blindness something to be ashamed of? You say no; I say no but sometimes I just feel so. Ashamed of not being able to tell if it matches or if something is of the right color or just choosing the wrong color and everybody can see it and then – afterwards – I realise it too. My color blindness I think is nothing to be ashamed of but sometimes I just am.

Mars in the Eyes of Colorblind Astronomer Schiaparellli

As very interesting described in the blog entry of Ginny the colorblind italian astronomer Schriparalli influenced the history of Mars very much. The interesting part of this story is that he was suffering from a red-green color blindness. According to the mentioned article this was the reason, that he couldn’t distinguish some light shadings and missinterpret this. He was describing Mars in terms of ‘land’ and ‘sea’ and this missleading sights made him describe the view of ‘canali’ on the surface of the planet Mars. ‘Canali’ was translated to ‘canal’ and therefore something human made. This kicked off the missbelieves and dreams of intelligent living on Mars. The correct translation would have been ‘channels’ or ‘grooves’ which is something completely natural.

So a colorblind man inspired the world to dream of intelligent beings outside the earth and I think this is still in our minds and keeps going on. This story tells me that even if people are suffering from color blindness this is for a good reason. A reason we maybe don’t realize in our daily living and which usually only gives us trouble. But I know now that there is a reason for it and we only have to find this reason and make it public to other people so they can share those insights with us.


Today is the day of Engadin Skimarathon. Every second sunday in march this cross country skiing race takes place in the wonderful Engadin, Switzerland. Up to 13’000 athlets are fighting for glory and personal best time at this magnificent race.

Startfield at Engadin Skimarathon

The ambitious participants show up at six o’clock in the morning to put down their skis. Before that it is not allowed and afterwards you could miss a good spot for the start. So what do you do from six o’clock till the start between 8h40 and 9h20?

An even more intersting question is: how can you find your pair of ski again before the race starts? There are uncoutable pairs in many rows lined up. And the best of all: They all look the same. Yes, really. Either they are yellow, silver or red. That’s about it. So for this time it is not only the colorblind under us which have to search but everybody. Therefore many participants choose some tricks to better find their skis again. This includes putting up their poles and attaching ballons.

And what if you can’t find your skis? Then your pulse will be higher up than during the whole race afterwards. You see many people either walking around with a terrified view or others waving with lonely pairs of ski. Anyway, in the end everybody grabs a pair, hits the snow and tries to survive the 42km ahead.

First Google Hit

Today the first visitor through a Google search landed on my page. He or she was looking for the keywords: crayola gold medal box crayons. Hmmm. Not really the keywords I want to be found through, but it’s ok, I mean, it really is the first visit coming from Google.

Just yesterday I tried to optimize the page to be a bit more accurate on my topics:

  • color blindness
  • colorblind
  • color vision deficiency
  • red-green color blindness

So let’s see if Google starts crawling my page and I’ll get some hits on this topics in the future.

Microsoft knows about Color Blindness

…or at least the color palette inside the Microsoft Office tools knows about color blindness. I don’t know on which release they introduced this feature, but all the shown colors on the palette have a tooltip with their colorname and that is just great.

I often need to color either a text passage or a table cell. For a colorblind person this already means guessing, trying out, not knowing what you really are doing. Say I really need to have this table cell colored red. How do I know that this is really red? With my red-green color blindness I never can say it for sure. And therefore this little popup names step into the gap and are of great help for me. I don’t have to ask me anymore if I really have chosen the correct color or ask somebody else to give me a helping hand.

Wouldn’t it be great if this little bit of knowledge could be shared among others? Say: all crayons have their color name imprinted, clothes have not only the size but also the color name on the tags and even watercolors have a little cloud hovering above them to show their names. That would be heaven on earth.

Black Coffee versus James Brown

I’m sipping my coffee and ask myself: is this good tasting liquid brown or black? Who can tell? And what about Coke, the same question arises: brown or black? And what about James Brown, was he really brown and not black…

For me it is really hard to tell. Everybody says coffee, Coke and even humus soil is brown. For me it looks most of the time black, as black as black can be. And what about a pitch dark night, is it really black or not? Ask yourself.

I assume the so called colorblind people are just not involved into the agreements all others made about colors. There must be somewhere a big black book locked away with an official seal, which tells everything in detail about the colors – and within the truth about black and brown.

The Biology behind Red-Green Color Blindness

Red-green color blindness is in the majority of cases provoked through a defective X-chromosome. Human beings have 23 different pairs of chromosomes whereof one pair is the so called sex-chromosome. This pair consists of two X-chromosomes on women and one X- coupled with one Y-chromosome on men. Color vision in the red-green area is coded on the X-chromosome which is called a sex linked trait.

This concludes if a man is a carrier of a defective X-chromosome he will suffer from color blindness. On women the not defective chromosome is in charge and therefore she is not colorblind but a carrier for color blindness. Because a women needs two defective X-chromosome to be affected this symptome is called X-linked recessive. A very interesting conclusion of this: If you are male and your father suffers from a red-green color vision deficiency you can not inherit it from him. Only women can be carriers for color blindness who pass it on to their sons.

Let’s have a look at some illustrations. On the left you can see how the disorder is passed on from an affected father to his children. The sons are unaffected and do not have the mutation. The daughters are not affected but are both carriers of the disorder because they inherited the defective X-chromosome from their father. The illustration on the right side shows a mother which is a carrier and a father which is unaffected. Their son is at a rate of 50% affected i.e. red-green colorblind and their daughter is at the same rate either are carrier or unaffected.

X link Recessive Mother And Father

In the last illustration we coupled an affected man with a women which is a carrier. As you can see their children are at a rate of 50% affected. This is the only case shown here, where a women can be affected i.e. suffering from a red-green color blindness. If the children are unaffected the daughter is anyway a carrier of the disorder. The not shown combinations where man and women are either both affected or both unaffected are left to the reader…

I hope this could give a better insight into the biology behind color blindness. It has to be noted that these remarks are only true for red-green color blindness. Blue-yellow color blindness (tritanopia) is linked to the chromosome pair 7 and therefore sex independent. Further readings on this topic and more details can be found under the following links:

The above illustrations are provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, 7th March 2006.

Imagine the Green is Red

I found this photograph taken by David Shrigley through a journal entry of hickdesign. Isn’t it great? The question is now: Can I see the sign or not? And as the question already implies, I can see it despite my red-green color deficiency. And why can I see it?

Red-green color blindness doesn’t implicate that these colors can’t be seen at all or are simply grey. They can be seen but intertwine smoothly into each other. A strong green and a strong red can be seen and distinguished very well under certain circumstances:

  • If each color is not mixed out of different shades.
  • If there are no big structure changes in the colors.

As an example think of a forest. A forest has many different types of green mixed into each other. On the other hand you have many structures (leafs, blades of grass, differnt plants, …) twined into the whole picture. This makes it very hard or almost impossible to spot say some red blossoms. The colors can’t be told apart from each other and therefore everything melts closer together and makes up a big green shaded picture. The green makes up the main color and a lot of other colors lose in this background noise.

In opposite to this the above photograph has clear structures and strong colors. The reasons to make it readable even to me and a good source for a smile.

Do you have a Problem with Colors?

It happened the night before we went on our long trip accross the US and to Hawaii. I had to do some last purchases at the grocery store accross the road. On my way back, it was late night and not many cars on the road, I crossed just before the little walking man jumped from red to green. To my misfortune a policeman observed this delict, walked towards me and said: Do you have a problem with colors?

Yes I do have a problem with colors. I am colorblind. I’m suffering from a red-green color deficiency. And I don’t think it is very funny where we can have a big laugh now. Do you have a problem with that? – I felt offended.

But I didn’t say anything. As you know, it was the day before our big holiday, so I kept silent. I just payed the bill, smiled, wished a nice evening and took off. And this reaction was even better, because they realized what a mere nothing this all was about and I could spot how uncomfortable he felt.

White is a Color

It is snowing since this early morning and according to the forecast it will be snowing until tomorrow afternoon. We already have approximately one foot on our terrace. Usually we get a few centimeters maybe ten or twenty but not as much as this. And I’m loving it.

Snow is great, wintertime just beautiful. And I think for a colorblind person it is even more beautiful. Because there are no flowers to miss, everything is white. No green, brown, yellow or red trees, they are all covered with snow. No yellow, white or blue parking lots, just a thin blanket of snowwhite on the roads. No red roofs, yellow fields, grey highways, green lawns or black nights. Everything is white.

Yes, I know: Everything is white, how boring. But it relieves for some time from being under a light but permanent color vision pressure.