Color Blindness: The Disability Nobody Can See

Kevin Abke, Cactus Writer

We live in a world of color.  When we get into the car, the colors safely guide us through the journey: red means stop, green means go.  Police use blue lights to get our attention.  Yellow traffic controls warn us of potential hazards.

We use colors in most workplaces.  Many people will take vacations to places like Michigan to view the fall colors.  We celebrate the festive colors during the holidays.  So many areas of our daily life include color that we don’t think about it and simply take it for granted.

Now imagine the world without color.  That’s the world of people who have color blindness.

Color vision deficiency is a physical disability.  According to National Eye Institute, as many as 8 percent of men and 0.5 percent of women have some form of vision deficiency, which means their perception of colors is different from what most of us see.

The National Institute of Health presents these numbers in a different way: in 2016, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women are colorblind.  More than 25 million people suffer from color blindness in the United States alone.

There are three main kinds of color blindness: red-green color blindness is the most common, followed by blue-yellow color blindness. A complete absence of color vision —total color blindness – is rare.

How does color blindness affect everyday life?  It starts in early childhood.  When children enter preschool, they are at a disadvantage because most educational materials are color coded.  According to National Eye Institute, children with red-green color blindness may have difficulty reading a green chalkboard when yellow chalk is used. Art classes, which require selecting appropriate colors of paint or crayons, may be challenging as well.

What about the job market?  Color blindness can make it difficult to read color-coded information such as bar graphs and pie charts. A colorblind person cannot fly a plane or work in a lab because ELISA testing is color coded.  Electricians, firefighters, baggage handlers at airports, police officers, forensic scientists, painters, railroad engineers, photographers, and cooks cannot be colorblind.  How many other jobs can we name that a colorblind person cannot do?

There are no cures or treatments available for a person with color blindness.  The best a person can do is to be tested and prescribed a contact lens.  This lens will change colors enough for a colorblind person to see differences, but still not true colors.

However, color blindness is not an unsurmountable obstacle on the way to success.  Many famous people are colorblind.  The iconic blue Facebook logo is blue because Mark Zuckerberg, its founder, is red-green colorblind.  Bill Clinton, Bing Crosby, Marco Rubio, Keanu Reeves, Mark Twain, Paul Newman, Prince William Windsor, Howie Mandel, Rod Stewart and Emerson Moser, a senior crayon maker for Crayola who molded approximately 1.4 billion crayons in his 37-year career, are also colorblind.

People with disabilities will find a way to overcome the challenges, but they need help.  Braille was created to help those who suffer loss of sight to read; we install ramps and elevators for those who have walking disabilities; we have special accommodations for those with learning disabilities.  We hold telethons, fund raisers, donor lists, and blood drives.  We should do the same for those who cannot see color and find ways to make their lives just a little bit easier.