EnChroma and UNC’s Department of Health Sciences Team to Help Color Blind Students Address Challenges to Learning on Campus

Students and staff to have access to special EnChroma color blind glasses and guidance on adapting learning materials to support accessibility and inclusion for all

Berkeley, CA April 25, 2023 EnChroma – creators of glasses for color blindness – and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Department of Health Sciences today announced that special EnChroma glasses for color blindness will be available for students, faculty and staff who are Color Vision Deficient (CVD) to borrow from the UNC Health Sciences Library and the UNC Davis Library to help them better navigate schoolwork that utilizes colors. In addition, faculty and staff will receive guidance on adapting learning materials to accommodate those who are color blind. 

One in 12 men (8%) and one in 200 women (.5%) are color blind – 13 million in the US, 30 million in Europe, and 350 million worldwide. With a total student population of 31,593 and 13,108 faculty and staff, based on national trends roughly 1,343 students may be color blind along with 557 faculty and staff at UNC-Chapel Hill. Within the Department of Health Sciences’ student population of approximately 400, the statistics would indicate about 17 students are color blind.

For them, understanding colorful information in school, at work and in daily life can cause obstacles. While people with normal color vision see over one million shades of color, the color blind only see an estimated 10% of hues and shades. Common color confusions include green and yellow, gray and pink, purple and blue, and red and brown, with colors appearing muted and dull and hard to tell apart. Since 80% of information is conveyed visually, and often includes colors, this can lead to frustration, confusion and other issues for color blind people. 

These challenges are brought to the forefront in many health-related academic programs, particularly for students in the Division of Clinical Laboratory Science, located within the Department of Health Sciences at UNC’s School of Medicine.

Learning on Campus

“The color blind students I have taught in the Clinical Laboratory Science program have all been highly capable, but were at a decided disadvantage when learning to read biochemical reactions involving color or identifying cellular characteristics under the microscope using polychromatic stains,” said Laine Stewart, MLS, Assistant Professor and Clinical Education Coordinator in the Division of Clinical Laboratory Science. “Seeing how these reactions and cells likely appeared to them using a color blind simulator makes me amazed at what they had to overcome. I am excited to have EnChroma glasses available to offer to future students with color vision deficiencies to make Clinical Laboratory Science more accessible to them and make their learning experience more equitable.”

A study released by EnChroma found that seventy-eight percent of color blind people said they were often frustrated or confused by colors in school assignments and activities. One in three say color blindness affected their confidence in school and 81% believe teachers should adapt teaching materials for color blind students. One color blind survey respondent commented: “I was unable to pass chromatography lessons in organic chemistry because I couldn't distinguish the colors accurately. I had to drop the class and eventually change majors.”

The pursuit of knowledge and intellectual advancement, particularly across STEM disciplines, should never be hampered by a student’s color vision deficiency, but this is all too often the case for millions of color blind students across the nation,” said Erik Ritchie, CEO of EnChroma. “By making loaner EnChroma glasses available to students, faculty, and staff, UNC and their Department of Health Sciences are now in the vanguard of the color accessibility movement.

UNC's Department of Health Sciences

Click here for more images of how color blind students at UNC see schoolwork and campus scenes with colors. 

EnChroma glasses are engineered with special optical filters that help the color blind see an expanded range of colors more vibrantly, clearly and distinctly to make schoolwork that involves color, colorful exhibits, attractions and/or experiences more accessible to the CVD. A recent study by the University of California, Davis, and France’s INSERM Stem Cell and Brain Research Institute, demonstrated the effectiveness of EnChroma glasses. 

In the EnChroma study, nearly 1,000 color blind people, including the parents of color blind children, shared their opinions about how Color Vision Deficiency affected their educational experiences. The results clearly demonstrate the negative effect color blindness has on learning for millions of students. A contributing factor is the lack of testing for color blindness in schools. Only 11 of 50 states test for CVD. As a result, many students do not realize they’re color blind. In fact, nearly half of color blind people said they didn’t learn they’re color blind until after 7th grade, almost one in three while in high school or later, and one in five don’t find out until after high school or college.

Highlights from the EnChroma survey include:

  • Four out of ten color blind students try to avoid schoolwork and activities involving color, and nearly half are less interested in painting, drawing, nature walks and field trips to art museums
  • More than one in three color blind people say teachers got frustrated with them when they couldn’t understand schoolwork involving color
  • Only 20% of teachers adapt schoolwork to accommodate color blind students
  • 87% support mandatory testing of schoolchildren for color vision deficiency
  • Two of three parents worry about color blindness affecting their child’s education

EnChroma encourages schools to quickly and easily test students in under two minutes for color blindness via our free online test available here and at enchroma.com.

UNC is joining numerous other renowned universities that offer EnChroma glasses to color blind students to borrow as part of the EnChroma Color Accessibility Program™ for Education. They include Boston University, North Carolina State University, Alfred University, the University of Hamburg, Mississippi State University and others.

EnChroma Color Accessibility Program™

EnChroma is the lead advocate for “color accessibility” through its EnChroma Color Accessibility Program. The program helps over 200 schools, universities, state parks, libraries, museums, and other organizations purchase and loan EnChroma glasses to color blind students and guests. In addition to its free color blindness test, EnChroma also offers materials for schools to share with teachers, parents and students to educate them about color blindness, its effects, and how to support color blind students. EnChroma offers a similar program for employers.

Media: Product shots, images and interactive GIFs illustrating the challenges to learning for those with color vision deficiencies can be downloaded here. EnChroma’s CEO, and UNC officials, are available for interviews. 

About EnChroma

Based in Berkeley, Calif., EnChroma produces leading-edge eyewear for color blindness and low vision, and other solutions for color vision, sold online and through Authorized Retailers worldwide. Invented in 2010, EnChroma’s patented eyewear combines the latest in color perception, neuroscience and lens innovation to improve the lives of people with color vision deficiency around the world. EnChroma received an SBIR grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It earned the 2016 Tibbetts Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration in recognition of the firm’s innovative impact on the human experience through technology, and the 2020 Innovation Award in Life Sciences from the Bay Area’s East Bay Economic Development Alliance. For more information call 510-497-0048 or visit enchroma.com.

Media Contacts:
UNC Department of Health Sciences
Mary Catherine Ratliff
Director of Communications
P: 919- 966-5975

Media Contacts:
Kent Streeb
Vice President, Communications & Partnerships
P: 530.908.9225