There have been a lot of videos going viral lately of color blind people “seeing color” 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 color, as everyone else around them is able to.
One in every 12 men and one in every 200 women have some degree of color blindness or color vision deficiency (CVD). The condition is not actual blindness, but an inability or a decreased ability to see color and perceive differences in color. CVD can be a partial or total deficiency, although total color blindness is not as common. There are two main types of color blindness:
red-green - which is most often inherited from the mother’s side on the x chromosome, and
blue-yellow - which is much rarer 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 Color Blind
Contrary to common misconceptions, a person who is color blind does not see only grey. He still usually sees color to some extent, but often the colors appear dull or washed out and can be easily confused with other colors. People often have trouble identifying or naming certain colors or distinguishing colors, for example, red and green, as well as orange, yellow, and brown may appear similar, particularly in low light situations. In fact, while people with normal color vision typically see about one million unique shades of color, individuals with color deficiency are only able to perceive 5-10% of that.
People with color deficiency often do not know they are color blind until they are tested. They assume everyone else perceives colors the same way. Often individuals are tested when they are seeking out certain career paths in which it is essential to distinguish colors such as pilots, electricians, or police officers among others.
Innovations in Color Vision
Color 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 color perception.
There are a couple of brands of color-enhancing glasses available that help some individuals with red-green colorblindness.
Both EnChroma and o2Amp Oxy-Iso Color Correction Glasses work for about 80% of people with red-green colorblindness - which means that not everyone will have the same experience as those that appear in the videos. The lenses enhance color 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 ColorCorrection 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 colors as they enter the eye to enhance color discrimination and perception.
Apps for CVD
There are a growing number of apps available for smartphones and tablets that serve as color vision aids for those with CVD. One example is the Colorblind Avenger which is a color identification program that will allow 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 color of the selected area.
Huevue is another app of colorblind tools that helps people with CVD identify, match, and coordinate colors. 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 colorblind modes to allow use by people with CVD. While none of these tools and aids are able to restore color vision permanently, they do allow those with the condition to live a more vibrant life.