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What Is It Like to Be Color Blind?

by Kevin Mulligan August 20, 2018

What Is It Like to Be Color Blind?

What is it like to be color blind? If you asked a hundred people, you might get a hundred different answers. Color blindness affects 300 million people worldwide and each person’s experience is different. Millions of perspectives might be more than we can gather, but as a color blind member of the EnChroma team, I can certainly give you mine!

First, what is color blindness? In technical terms, anomalous trichromacy (its most common form) is a genetically transferred defect that shifts the range of sensitivity of either the red or green sensitive cone cells and causes color confusion somewhere in the color spectrum. This shift in the sensitivity causes an excess overlap in the red and green color wavelengths that we perceive. This causes color blind people to mistake, for example, a purple shirt for a blue one. There are also other forms of color blindness that are far less common like tritanomaly (blue-yellow color blindness), monochromacy (complete color blindness) and even bilateral dichromacy (color blindness in one eye). However, I have red-green color blindness, more specifically, strong deuteranomaly (green deficient), which is one of the most common types estimated to affect 62.5% of the male color blind population. I first learned about my color blindness when taking an entrance exam for Kindergarten. When learning my colors I struggled specifically with distinguishing purple and blue, as well as green and brown, red and green, red and brown, amongst others. I found coloring accurately, choosing toys, and identification of common objects particularly hard during my early years.

What is it like to be color blind? If you asked a hundred people, you might get a hundred different answers. Color blindness affects 300 million people worldwide and each person’s experience is different. Millions of perspectives might be more than we can gather, but as a color blind member of the EnChroma team, I can certainly give you mine!

First, what is color blindness? In technical terms, anomalous trichromacy (its most common form) is a genetically transferred defect that shifts the range of sensitivity of either the red or green sensitive cone cells and causes color confusion somewhere in the color spectrum. This shift in the sensitivity causes an excess overlap in the red and green color wavelengths that we perceive. This causes color blind people to mistake, for example, a purple shirt for a blue one. There are also other forms of color blindness that are far less common like tritanomaly (blue-yellow color blindness), monochromacy (complete color blindness) and even bilateral dichromacy (color blindness in one eye). However, I have red-green color blindness, more specifically, strong deuteranomaly (green deficient), which is one of the most common types estimated to affect 62.5% of the male color blind population. I first learned about my color blindness when taking an entrance exam for Kindergarten. When learning my colors I struggled specifically with distinguishing purple and blue, as well as green and brown, red and green, red and brown, amongst others. I found coloring accurately, choosing toys, and identification of common objects particularly hard during my early years.

Color blindness was present in almost every aspect of my life in some small way or another.

Color blindness was present in almost every aspect of my life in some small way or another.

As I got older stoplight colors became confusing, I struggled with graphs in my textbooks, and of course, like many others who are color blind, matching my clothes. The only way to keep myself from showing up to high school in a horrendously mismatched outfit was to meticulously memorize the color of every piece of clothing I owned (though a few mismatch days proved the system was far from foolproof). Color blindness was present in almost every aspect of my life in some small way or another.

As I got older stoplight colors became confusing, I struggled with graphs in my textbooks, and of course, like many others who are color blind, matching my clothes. The only way to keep myself from showing up to high school in a horrendously mismatched outfit was to meticulously memorize the color of every piece of clothing I owned (though a few mismatch days proved the system was far from foolproof). Color blindness was present in almost every aspect of my life in some small way or another.

Color Blind Normal Color Vision
Normal Color Vision
Color Blind Deutan
Deuteranomaly Color Blindness

Years later, when I first heard of EnChroma glasses, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Glasses made for color blind people? It seemed crazy! I was blown away by the reactions I had seen online and every one of my friends made a point to ask me if I had heard of them. I imagined the world through new eyes, eyes that could pick a t-shirt without having to cross reference every family member in the house before going outside. I knew I had to try them as soon as I could.

Years later, when I first heard of EnChroma glasses, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Glasses made for color blind people? It seemed crazy! I was blown away by the reactions I had seen online and every one of my friends made a point to ask me if I had heard of them. I imagined the world through new eyes, eyes that could pick a t-shirt without having to cross reference every family member in the house before going outside. I knew I had to try them as soon as I could.

I find myself taking more time to experience where I am, solely because the colors are so much brighter and so much more distinct.

I find myself taking more time to experience where I am, solely because the colors are so much brighter and so much more distinct.

Coincidentally, my first EnChroma experience came during my job interview for the Social Media Specialist position here, at EnChroma. I had taken the online EnChroma Color Vision Test to see if these crazy glasses could work for me. When I tested as a strong deutan, I was so excited to find out that they just might. The moment I put my glasses on, I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t say anything. It was a lot to take in. Then, I saw the green of a stoplight. My jaw dropped to the floor. How was it so green? How had I gone all these years without seeing how wonderfully (and obviously) green it was? That same moment a man on a bike in a very bright green shirt rode by and I was floored. It was almost like the drop on a roller coaster, how green can green be? As it turned out, very green.

Luckily for me, I got the job at EnChroma. Since then, it has been the most colorful year I’ve ever seen. I’ve taken trips down the coast of California, to the mountains of Colorado and around the San Francisco Bay that have me constantly stopping to look at what’s around me in new vibrant color. EnChroma glasses have totally changed the way I interact with color. Instead of basing my observations off of the observations of others, I can pick out what I love about the colors of the world on my own. I find myself taking more time to experience where I am, solely because the colors are so much brighter and so much more distinct. I have a running list of sights I need to see with my glasses, places like the Grand Canyon, Aspen, Colorado, Peru, Spain, and so many more! Places I’ve always dreamed of seeing, but now get to see in the bright light of color. For me, EnChroma glasses make everyday an adventure with something new to experience. The best part of all, though, is that while I’m on my adventures, my clothes always match.

Coincidentally, my first EnChroma experience came during my job interview for the Social Media Specialist position here, at EnChroma. I had taken the online EnChroma Color Vision Test to see if these crazy glasses could work for me. When I tested as a strong deutan, I was so excited to find out that they just might. The moment I put my glasses on, I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t say anything. It was a lot to take in. Then, I saw the green of a stoplight. My jaw dropped to the floor. How was it so green? How had I gone all these years without seeing how wonderfully (and obviously) green it was? That same moment a man on a bike in a very bright green shirt rode by and I was floored. It was almost like the drop on a roller coaster, how green can green be? As it turned out, very green.

Luckily for me, I got the job at EnChroma. Since then, it has been the most colorful year I’ve ever seen. I’ve taken trips down the coast of California, to the mountains of Colorado and around the San Francisco Bay that have me constantly stopping to look at what’s around me in new vibrant color. EnChroma glasses have totally changed the way I interact with color. Instead of basing my observations off of the observations of others, I can pick out what I love about the colors of the world on my own. I find myself taking more time to experience where I am, solely because the colors are so much brighter and so much more distinct. I have a running list of sights I need to see with my glasses, places like the Grand Canyon, Aspen, Colorado, Peru, Spain, and so many more! Places I’ve always dreamed of seeing, but now get to see in the bright light of color. For me, EnChroma glasses make everyday an adventure with something new to experience. The best part of all, though, is that while I’m on my adventures, my clothes always match.




Kevin Mulligan
Kevin Mulligan

Author

EnChroma Social Media Specialist, musician, runner, buddy. Favorite EnChroma frame: Derby



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