Stop Asking! – Top 5 Questions You Should Never Ask Your Colorblind Buddy

As there are up to 10% of all men colorblind, you definitely will bump into one sooner or later. Or you just found out, that your old buddy is colorblind and you didn’t know it for that long.

To prevent you from putting your foot in it, I will offer you the top five questions you should never ask your colorblind colleague, partner, friend or neighbor. Why shouldn’t you ask those questions? Simply put: They just make you look like a fool and also make your buddy look like a fool.

Those five questions are not irrelevant. You should know the answer to those questions but don’t get them while asking somebody. Therefore I will not only list those five questions and leave them up to you but also will show you, why you shouldn’t ask each question and in the same breath answer them for you.

Color Blindness: Top 5 Questions Not to Ask

#1: What color is this?
Don’t ask this question, just don’t do it. This is something you make a colorblind person feel like a fool and you can’t take any profit out of it. Somebody suffering from color blindness doesn’t see other colors, they see less colors or maybe some colors closer to each other, because they see fewer differences in hue.

And if you would think about it before asking this question you will find out yourself: No answer given to this question will help you to understand how a colorblind persons sees the world. And that is actually what you want to know.

#2: Do you see only shades of gray?
There are very few people suffering from monochromacy. Those people only see in shades of gray. But they also have problems with bright light and need to wear often sunglasses.

This kind of color blindness is very very rare and there is only a tiny little chance, that your buddy will suffer it. So every other person suffering form color blindness sees colors, but less colors. With normal color vision you can distinguish more than 100 different hues. A colorblind person might only be able to distinguish 20 of them, but still can see colors.

#3: Which colors do you see then?
All colors, many colors, less colors. Nobody suffering from color blindness can answer you this questions correctly. Some may see more, some less but none can tell you which colors, because a colorblind person doesn’t know how you see the world.

If you nearly close your eyes your vision is comparable to colorblind vision. Also in the break of dawn the visible colors can be compared to what somebody suffering a color vision deficiency sees.

#4: Who buys your clothes?
Me; who else? Yes; going shopping for a new shirt and tie isn’t the easiest thing for a colorblind guy. And it’s sometimes embarrassing, not to know if the chosen colors fit together and fit into your wardrobe. This is something that accompanies you for your whole life if you are colorblind.

There are different strategies to handle this. Either you ask somebody else, every time until you just know the pieces which fit together. Or you adjust the colors you wear to colors you know that they will always fit together.

#5: Hey; you shouldn’t drive a car!
I know, this isn’t really a question. But it transfers to the question in your mind: How can a colorblind person distinguish between the red and the green at the traffic light?

Usually this is not a problem at all. The chosen colors for traffic lights are enhanced to make them more visible to colorblind people. Some extra orange and blue are mixed in, so everybody should see the difference. An other clue which helps a lot is the arrangement: Red at top/left, green at bottom/right. All this together minimizes the problem for somebody suffering from color blindness almost to nothing.

So don’t put your foot in and make yourself a fool. Try to ask some interesting questions which can get you into a nice and interesting talk about color blindness. I’ll have a look at such intelligent questions in a future post. Stay tuned.

26 responses on “Stop Asking! – Top 5 Questions You Should Never Ask Your Colorblind Buddy

  1. Karlo Licudine

    Gee.. I never thought that being color blind is such a handicap.

    When I was reading your post, I was half-expecting a funny article about color-blinded people. Later did I found out that these people shouldnt be made fun of.

    I actually learned a good thing on your post. Thanks

    A very nice read!

    If you have time, why don’t you drop by my post:

    It’s also an entry for the problogger top 5- group writing project. ^^ Goodluck to us all!

  2. Sarakastic

    I’ve never thought of the paradox of asking “so what colors do you see?”, but I just realized how idiotic this is & will never ask it again, thanks for pointing this out.

  3. Allen Strider

    It’s really sad to see somebody take a tiny flaw and act like it’s a major disability.

    Have you ever IN YOUR LIFE actually been offended by someones callus disregard to your ‘condition’? If so you need to suck it up.

    Seriously, I nearly wept for mankind when I saw this obnoxious attention whoring nonsense.

  4. brem

    Lights also have shapes to help.
    A color blind electrical technician is not always easy either… resistor color code is not much help when deciding which component to use :)

  5. Theda K.

    Very interesting. I always did wonder about the streetlights. The other day, though, I saw one that was upside down. I was very concerned about the colorblind, so I’m glad to know the colors are enhanced. I still hope they fix that light, though.

    *Found your post from the ProBlogger Writing Project*

  6. JoLynn

    Hilarius Daniel, “who buys your clothes?”! Have you really had people ask you that?

    This was a good one, thanks for posting it. I never really thought much about how people who are color blind could be offended.

    Good luck in the Problogger project, I’m excited to see who wins on Friday! :)


  7. Daniel Flueck Post author

    @JoLynn: Well, not really. But it’s a topic people often want to know about: How do you fit your clothes? Hey, your tie has the wrong color! … And it’s definitely something I need assistance almost daily.

  8. Tom O'Leary

    Nice top 5

    Really good information for someone like me who I will confess is 100% ignorant about colorblindness. Thanks for making it so that I won’t look like a complete idiot or offend anyone with stupid questions.

    Thanks a lot


  9. Jennifer

    My husband has no excuse for not wearing matching colors. It is nice to know that some people actually dress uncoordinated by mistake.

  10. Michael Chantrel

    I’ve got a colour-blind brother… and you nailed this one! I’ll be passing on a link to this post to him.

    I’d have never found your blog entry except for the Problogger writing project. It’s worth it to jump on board with these projects and end up finding a lot of blogs you wouldn’t have found any other way.

  11. clarkebruce

    Interesting post, thanks.

    I get asked ‘who buys your clothes’ and I don’t even have colour blindness. (At least I don’t think I do…)

  12. Jesse S. Somer

    Hi Daniel,

    I have a little tale to tell about colour-blindness. I’m not necessarily proud of it, but nonetheless, it occurred.

    When I was a child/adolescent I was a compulsive liar. Just about anything that came out of my mouth was falsified in one way or another. (Fortunately, this has resulted in me being painfully honest, often too honest, in my adult years.) I found out my step-father had red-green colour-blindness, so the next time I went to the doctor for the colour-blind ‘test’ I pretended that every time I saw brown it looked yellow, and every time I saw yellow, it was brown. I was just a kid, but little did I know that yellow/brown colour-blindness was one of the more common types a person could have. What a guess! :-)

    Subsequently, for years people thought I was colour-blind…Until one day when I told them the truth. They (naturally) were all quite surprised that I’d had made it all up. I think the reason I lied had something to do with my childhood-my genetic father wasn’t around much, so I told stories about how he was a great race car driver etc. There was also a lot of alcohol and other drug use done by my parents/at home. This created an unfavourable environment that could conceivably cause a child to escape through the use of imagination/stories.

    Could all of this have been integral to the fact that I’m now a Creative Writer? Who knows?

    As for my childhood lie about being colour-blind, I’m somewhat ashamed. I’ve recently had to get glasses, so I can now see how a condition like yours could be hard to cope with at times. It wasn’t cool for me to pretend…what about ‘The boy who cried wolf’? Didn’t he get eaten in the end?

  13. John Thomas

    Ha! I have had pretty much every person ask me “What colors can you see?” And “What color is that car?” My older sisters would constantly ask me why one of my socks was pink while we were in school. One time we were walking with one of their friends and the friend was like, “His sock(s) is not pink.” And then get a horrified look on her face when they told her what they were doing. Yeah. It sucks. Apparently worse for some as opposed to others. And “green” traffic lights look white. I have seen a couple of actual green ones and hit the brakes immediately, despite the placement.

  14. Curtis Croulet

    Choosing clothes (usually business shirts and ties): Notwithstanding being colorblind, I like colored shirts, but I usually choose blue shirts or white shirts with blue stripes. If there’s any doubt, I don’t buy it. If I suspect that a shirt is pastel pink or green, I won’t buy it. Those colors are very hard to identify with certainty. Many years ago I wore what I thought was a white shirt with a blue tie, and a female coworker asked why I thought pink and blue was a good combination. I discarded the shirt, which had been a gift from (I think) my mother-in-law.

  15. Sveta

    I liked your post. As a deaf individual and an advocate for web accessibility, I understand how questions like those upset people with disabilities.

    My biggest pet peeve about my hearing loss is when people ask me if I can lipread after I hand them a paper and pen and ask them to write down what they want to say to me.

    I had the question about driving a car asked to me sometimes, too, by those concerned that I cannot hear the signals.

    Your posting gave me an idea to write “5 (or whatever number) top questions you should never ask your deaf/hard of hearing buddy” :0)

  16. John

    Traffics lights:

    the green one is white,
    the yellow one is yellow and
    the red one is off!

    That’s the way I see them.

  17. James

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  18. Andrew

    Heh. I has sometimes occurred to me that being asked “what colour is that?” every time someone finds out I’m colour blind could be like a mild version of asking someone in a wheelchair to run down to that corner and back.

    “Wow, your legs don’t work? Show me!”

    Personally, I don’t mind the question that much, though it does get tiresome. When I get asked about traffic lights I explain how the green has a strong blue component and so on. I have a better understanding of colour theory than most people outside of a University physics department (not the art department – those ignoramuses wouldn’t understand colour theory if you painted them mageneta and taught them subtraction)

    But what really annoys me is when people who know me correct me. When I call a towel blue, and my wife tells me it’s actually purple I often snarkily respond “same thing.”

    I live in a world where there are two colours – warm and cold. There are some words that people have arbitrarily made up to describe certain shades of some of those colours. That’s fine, do what you want, but don’t expect me to play your silly game. If I want to call the blue thing blue, just bite it and play along.