Colorblind Men Suffer under LED Lights

I’ve got a laptop and I’m writing this story down on it right now. It has three little LED lights shining steadily and one blinking on an USB device. But which color are they?

A lot of LED lights are used to show you different states of just anything. Either its on or off, connected or not, loaded or empty, working or on hold, not loading or loading, and more. Right now I can think of several devices in my household which have LED lights on them to show me just anything and everything: stereo, router, electrical toothbrush, electrical razor, sawing machine, digital camera and of course my laptop.

Red and Green LED
Red and Green LED by Sebastian Yepes

All of those LEDs want to tell me something, but I can’t see it. Due to my color blindness I just don’t see the difference between those green, red, orange and yellow shades. I can distinguish the blue ones from all the colors above, but this combination is unfortunately not often used.

Have a look at this very nice picture taken by Sebastian Yepes F. He says that this picture is made by a red and a green LED light. I can’t see them.

I mean, I can see the colored circles, but aren’t they in some shades of orange, or maybe yellow, or—oh I don’t know.

LED Rainbow
LED Rainbow by Andrew Hoyer

Or this nice rainbow taken by Andrew Hoyer. Shall I listen the colors I can see: red (or brown?), red (or orange or what?), green (or yellow or still orange), then brighter blue, blue, darker blue.

I definitely like the first three. Unfortunately this are the ones most often used inside electrical devices—which are not designed for the colorblind.

So dear manufacturers of things including LED lights which should tell me something: Please either use blue combined with yellow, which should be differentiable by everyone, or use blinking and non blinking LED lights. Colorblind persons have huge problems with all those little lights in green, yellow, orange and red. And as there are up to 10% of all men colorblind, this is definitely something to think about.

By the way, I never know it the batteries are loaded on my laptop or not just by looking at the battery LED. I either just plug it long enough or ask my not colorblind wife :-)

7 responses on “Colorblind Men Suffer under LED Lights

  1. Ben Buchanan

    I’m surprised at some of the systems which rely entirely on colour… even systems where the people in charge should have known better.

    In a recent fire drill I noticed that the warden system uses coloured hats/helmets to distinguish between area, floor and building wardens. I guess in a fire colourblinds just have to take orders from anyone in a helmet.

    With LEDs… I know you can get colour-shift LEDs, so it should be user-configurable! Let the user pick colours or blink patterns that work for them.

  2. Daniel Flueck Post author

    Ben, I didn’t know about the colored helmet system. I must have a look if I can find out some more about it, because it really sounds like a problem for all those colorblind firefighters.

    Concerning configurable LEDs, you’re so right. Would be just great if you could set them up according to your personal color perception.

  3. Susan

    LEDs are one thing. What I really struggle with are maps! Whenever there’s a weather alert here, they just show a color coded map on the corner of the screen. It’s all one color to me! And forget any color coded maps in text books or online. Impossible!

  4. Daniel Flueck Post author

    Susan, do you have any screenshot or picture of such a weahter alert? Would be interesting to see it and of course write about it.

    Color coded maps is definitely a big problem. It looks like color blindness only made it through to web publishers but not to all the other designers and layouters.

  5. Susan

    I don’t have a screenshot of one of those weather alerts, but I’ll be on the lookout for a way to get one.

  6. Nick

    That’s interesting I always though lighting and colours of any kind was about colour temperature regardless of the light source? I suffer from mild colour-blindness and get Ecoled lights for my house and have so far managed ok. Very curious indeed.