There have been a lot of videos going viral lately of colour blind people “seeing colour” for the first time using specialized glasses. The emotional reactions of amazement, shock and joy even lead some to break down into tears. The glasses provide these individuals a way to view the world in vibrant, living colour, as everyone else around them is able to.
One in every 12 men and one in every 200 women have some degree of colour blindness or colour vision deficiency (CVD). The condition is not actual blindness, but an inability or a decreased ability to see colour and perceive differences in colour. CVD can be a partial or total deficiency, although total colour blindness is not as common. There are two main types of colour blindness:
red-green - which is most often inherited from the mother’s side on the x chromosome, and
blue-yellow - which is much more rare and usually occurs from damage to the nerve. CVD can sometimes be acquired through disease, brain injury or certain drugs or chemical reactions
The World of the Colour Blind
Contrary to common misconceptions, a person who is colour blind does not see only grey. He still usually sees colour to some extent, but often the colours appear dull or washed out and can be easily confused with other colours. People often have trouble identifying or naming certain colours or distinguishing colours, for example, red and green, as well as orange, yellow and brown may appear similar, particular in low light situations. In fact, while people with normal colour vision typically see about one million unique shades of colour, individuals with colour deficiency are only able to perceive 5-10% of that.
People with colour deficiency often do not know they are colour blind until they are tested. They assume everyone else perceives colours the same way. Often individuals are tested when they are seeking out certain career paths in which it is essential to distinguish colours such as pilots, electricians or police officers among others.
Innovations in Colour Vision
Colour blindness can impair certain aspects of daily life and limit certain activities or job options and therefore there are a number of companies out there working on technology to overcome these difficulties. While there is no cure for CVD, there are aids available that can sometimes assist with increased colour perception.
There are a couple of brands of colour enhancing glasses available that help some individuals with red-green colourblindness.
Both EnChroma and o2Amp Oxy-Iso Colour Correction Glasses work for about 80% of people with red-green colourblindness - which means that not everyone will have the same experience as those that appear in the videos. The lenses enhance colour perception by filtering out the light into different spectral components. EnChroma has two versions - indoor, designed for looking at computer screens and outdoor, sunglasses.
Another solution is a custom designed ColourCorrection System in which contact lenses and glasses are customized for the individual and are available with or without a prescription. These lenses work by changing the wavelength of the colours as they enter the eye to enhance colour discrimination and perception.
Apps for CVD
There are a growing number of apps available for smartphones and tablets that serve as colour vision aids for those with CVD. One example is the Colourblind Avenger which is a colour identification program will allows the person to use their mobile device as a visual aid. The user takes a photo or selects an existing photo and when he touches an area on the image the app displays the colour of the selected area.
Huevue is another app of colourblind tools that help people with CVD identify, match and coordinate colours. There are many other apps available out there to help aid those with CVD and educate others about living with the condition.
There are even video games and software design tools that are now created with colourblind modes to allow use by people with CVD. While none of these tools and aids are able to restore colour vision permanently, they do allow those with the condition to live a more vibrant life.