Colour blind people face many difficulties in everyday life which normally sighted people are just not aware of. Problems can arise in even the most simple of activities including choosing and preparing food, gardening, sport, driving a car and selecting clothing. Colour blind people can also find themselves in trouble because they haven’t been able to pick up a change in someone’s mood by a change in colour of their face, or not noticed their child getting sunburnt.

Here are a few examples of typical problems:-

Most red/green colour blind people won’t know if they have cooked a piece of meat rare or well done and they are unlikely to be able to tell the difference between green and ripe tomatoes or between ketchup and chocolate sauce.

Colour blind people often try to eat unripe bananas because they can’t tell the difference between a green unripe banana and a yellow ripe banana – to them because both of the colours are the same shade they think they are the same colour.

Colour blind people can get quite cross with electrical goods which have red and green LED displays to indicate either that a battery needs charging or the machine is on standby. An example might be a handheld games console with an indicator light which changes from red to green depending upon whether the unit is fully charged or needs recharging. This can be very frustrating, particularly for a child.

In some countries colour blindness is not considered to be a disability, but in other cultures colour blindness is regarded as a defect. In Japan, for example, colour blind people are excluded from a number of careers and in many communist countries colour blind people are not permitted to drive because they are not always able to read coloured lights correctly.

Relatively little research has been done into the effects of colour blindness in everyday life. This is because until now the general population has been unaware of the difficulties that colour blindness can cause on a daily basis. UK society has therefore on the whole treated colour blind people no differently to people with normal colour vision. Colour blind people learn to manage quite well but this does not mean that their needs can be ignored.

The Colour Blind Awareness organisation aims to increase awareness of the needs of colour blind people in everyday life. Some areas of industry, transport services and the armed forces are probably the only areas where it is accepted that colour blindness could potentially cause problems and it is recognised that there are certain types of job which the colour blind are not suited to. Industry is also forced by legislation to account for colour blind people in the workplace but only for safety reasons.

Sadly most business people don’t take account of whether all of their target audience can read or understand most of the documents or presentations which they produce.

Amazingly hardly any businesses have yet to realise that they may be missing out on about 5% of their target markets because they are not aware of the effects of colour blindness.

By far the most important oversight is the plight of colour blind school children who are left to struggle in the classroom due to lack of awareness of the effects of their disability by both their parents and teachers. Teachers are not given any training on the issue of colour blindness or upon how to treat colour blind children in a school environment.

Colour blindness will also affect which careers can be pursued and colour blind school leavers are not usually given careers advice which includes information about which careers they may find it difficult or impossible to follow.

Dress and make-up

A colour blind person may not know the names of the colours they like to wear and will have no idea if their colour choices suit them but nevertheless they are likely to be judged on their appearance, even if only subconsciously, by every person they meet. Often colour normal people will be aware that their colour blind colleagues and friends have a strange dress sense and probably tease them about it, but will usually not realise that the reason is colour blindness, unless their friend’s condition is actually pointed out to them.

Clothing labels are not much help either since they don’t usually give any indication of colour. If they do, often the colours are named in unusual ways e.g. taupe, stone, olive etc. which have no meaning to a person with colour blindness. The colour blind need to know if a shirt is pink or grey, dark blue/dark green or black, red/brown or green because they often have no way to differentiate between these colours without help.

Colour blind people often need advice from friends or family to help them to choose ‘safe’ combinations of clothes which they can then stick to.

A colour blind person may be not able to appreciate changes in skin colour due to blushing, sunburn/rashes or pallor and these issues are important in relationships. To colour blind people the normal pinkish complexion of a person in normal light will appear slightly murky green.

The Workplace

Most colour blind people will have stories similar to the one below which tells about the difficulties that can affect them in the workplace. Many will have problems in fully accessing information from all kinds of everyday workplace sources including the internet, documents and presentations, photographs, maps, charts and diagrams. Colour blind doctors can have problems in many areas including diagnosing rashes and inflammation. Driving causes issues too, particularly traffic lights at night, which can be impossible to distinguish from street lights in certain conditions. A colour blind hairdresser would struggle with colouring hair, a colour blind person working in a garden centre would not be able to spot berries or flowers without some difficulty. This list goes on…

Colour blind pilots. Yes, they DO exist! Follow this link to the Colour Vision Defective Pilots Association (in Australia) to find out more. www.cvdpa.com.

Colour Blind doctors. Some colour blind doctors are so concerned about the problems which they can experience in some areas of medicine that they have set up a website to provide further advice and information to colour blind medical practitioners – see www.colourmed.com.

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