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? :-)

14 responses on “LED Colorblind

  1. azmole

    I can really relate to your LED story. I have a difficult time telling whether an LED is shining green or yellow. Red I can usually see. The odd symptom is if there are three different colored LEDs and I turn off the power to them I can see the three colors but when they are energized the yellow and the green look alike. I went so far as to make a circuit with a green and yellow LED tried the ColorView lenses. I still could not tell them apart. I decided to try the Seekey colored lens the price is not too bad. Maybe it will help me tell them apart if not then I am not out too much money.

    The LED I really love is the blue LED I can see that one everytime!

    Thanks for the story I know just how you feel talking to the support line lady.

  2. Martin!

    I don’t try to tell the color of LED light anymore. (and I can’t see the difference between the two pictures.) I just ask. And when calling support for a product that has green and red LED, I tell them at the start of the call and every time they ask me the color of the LED that I can’t see the difference because I’m color blind and that they should really think about this in the next version of the product. Most of the time, they can find a way to help me. And most of the time, people don’t think we are stupid, but feel bad for us (none of those two feeling is the right one.)


  3. DanH

    I am protanomalous and have similar trouble (e.g. Cisco switches with red, green, and orange indicators). I have used the colored plastic tabs for hanging file folders as a free substitute for something like the Seekey.

  4. Leo

    Bi-colored LEDs are the worst nightmare for me, no chance to see any difference between the red and green mode.
    Sometimes I can’t believe that nearly 10% of all men are in some way colorblind. How can products with bi-colored LED be successful if so many people cannot really make sense of them?

  5. Matt Doar

    DanH – that’s an excellent tip about the colored plastic tabs, thanks!

    Yellow/green LEDs are just a waste of my time. I avoid products that use them.

  6. AD

    I agree with you all the lights suck especially for those of us with color issues.

    I personally think it needs to be a legally recognized handicap so we can be protected just like anyone else who has a handicap.

    Its not far to give a kid who is color blind in some way a test that requires color matching… say a pie chart or something like that. I can’t tell you how many times I have studied the print pattern to figure out what is what.

  7. Brian Chandler

    I’ve had this exact same problem with our home LAN router. Since color is the only indication of OK / Not OK, I usually just wiggle wires, power cycle, and guess more than I would if I could see them.

  8. Colorblind

    Polycom conference phones use a single red/green led to indicate whether the phone is “muted” or “live.” I can never tell which way it is, so I always have to ask someone. Then my colleagues think I am an idiot, and the clients on the other end hear someone whispering “are we on mute?”

  9. madfist

    I guess that’s a tipical problem. I had it with the LED on my CD writer. I was only one LED but according to the manual it would blink in three colors red-yellow-green. I only saw one.
    Anyway, nice site.

  10. albedo

    Interesting article!

    I’d rather tend to agree to your wife and describe the color as a yellowish green. But it’s not easy saying that from a photo, as the real LED most certainly looks different.
    It’s not surprising that your child said it’s yellow because these LEDs often have colors that are not very near to those described as unique hues (colors that appear not as a mixture of two others). I don’t understand why they don’t just use double coding of the status, like red for peopl with normal color vision and blinking in short intervals for color deficient people. Yellow(-ish green) and blinking at long intervals etc. That’s how my WLAN router works. Each status has a unique “morse” code pattern. The solution is so simple.

  11. Hakim Luqman

    Hello there. I came accross this blog post when I was looking online about colour blindness.

    I’m not colour blind, but I have a friend who is. He says red and green look alike to him, but his favourite colour is green, and he says red just looks like a darker green, but he doesn’t like it.

    I like drawing pretty colourful paintings for him, but then yesterday I put some of my drawings through this colour blindness simulator thing I found on the website, and now I feel quite horrid. I don’t think he can see the colours. And I wonder how he feels about it. I’ve stopped drawing for him now.

    I feel guilty…I don’t know, should I be? He seems to like them….

    Oh, the LEDs on the router in your picture look greenish-yellow to me. :)

  12. albedo

    Hey, Hakim!

    Don’t feel guilty! Just use more bluish colors. Deuteranopes and protanopes can see blue hues very well.
    If you want to be sure about the color perception of certain hues you might use these images as a hint for a color palette that works well for your next paintings:


    Don’t forget that color deficient people see colors! They only have smaller color “palettes”.

  13. Clayton

    I don’t see red at all in those pictures, or yellow. And I have this problem with my Wii, because the colors to tell if the power is on or off are green and yellow, so I’ll have no clue if the Wii is on or off by looking at the little power light. They both look the same to me, yellow. But I rarely even play the Wii anyway so it’s not a big deal.