What’s the Strangest Thing You’ve Ever Been Asked About Colour Blindness?
by Kevin Mulligan
Sometimes colour vision deficiency (CVD) can be more confusing to those who are not familiar with it than to those who have lived with it all of their lives. For instance, the term “colour blindness” can lead some to believe that people with CVD can only see in black and white. We surveyed our EnChroma colour blind community on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to learn what strange and crazy questions they have been asked over time.
As a red-green colour blind person myself, I’ve heard my fair share of questions about the way I see the world, some have been quite surprising, to say the least! Here are some of the more interesting questions people have been asked about the impact of living with colour blindness:
What Do Colour Blind People See?
What do people with colour vision deficiency really see? There are lots of answers! Based on the questions about colour blindness we received from our colour blind community, some people seem to believe it might even be better than having normal colour vision. For example, the US military actually identified colour blind individuals to help them defeat camouflage when surveying the battlefield from the air thanks to a learned ability to more effectively detect patterns. However, in almost all other cases, the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. Shade confusion, colour identification issues, and other everyday struggles are common for those who are colour blind. Despite the obvious cons and scarce pros of colour blindness, people still want to know how we see the world. Colour blindness may not give you x-ray vision, nor enhanced vision at all, but it won’t stop the questions!
If you can’t see the blue sky, do you just see straight into space?
During a visit to the dentist, the technician cleaning my teeth thought colour blindness gave me the ability to see through her green scrubs like Superman.
Everything is in colour. Do you not see anything? Are things invisible?
Not As Simple As Black & White
It’s a somewhat common misconception that all colour blind people see the world in only black and white as if it were a grainy, old-timey movie. While this is not the case, complete colour blindness does exist! It’s called achromatopsia and is one of the rarest forms of colour blindness. The most common form is red-green colour blindness, also known as protanomaly or deuteranomaly. Individuals with these conditions can still see colour, however, many colours become muddled and easily confused when certain shades blend together. So, while colour blindness does limit the amount of colour one can see, it’s far from an old west style cowboy movie!
Here are some of the other questions about colour blindness readers shared:
So everything looks like an old black and white movie?
Is everything black and white to you?
Red Light, Green Light: Can Colour Blind People Drive?
Some are convinced that a colour blind person might struggle when driving. It’s true, people with colour blindness are barred from getting their driver’s license in some countries like Romania, but it’s not common. For some, the green light may look white, for others the red and yellow lights might look more similar than they would to a person with normal colour vision. Also, certain street signs may blend into their surroundings as well, causing potential issues. Typically, colour blind people learn to adapt to their surroundings when learning to drive. Memorizing the positions of the red, yellow, and green lights makes it easy to determine when to stop and when to go, even in foreign countries. Many also look for the text of a sign, rather than its colour (i.e. a STOP sign) for navigation. Thanks to the nearly universal placement of traffic lights and road signs, most colour blind people can drive just as well as those with normal colour vision.
How do you know what to do at a traffic light?
If you can't see red how can you tell that you're looking at a stop sign?
Wait--so do you go on red lights and stop on green lights?
What IS Colour Blindness?
For many, the whole concept of colour blindness can be challenging to fully comprehend. Given the many types of colour blindness and their definitions, many people can confuse their understanding of the condition. Whether it comes from the condition’s confusing name or never having learned the way colour deficient people see, some very interesting questions can come up. And when we say interesting, we mean interesting.
What colour is a zebra?
If you can't see colour.. how do you know if it's day or night
So if you’re colour blind, how do you see paint?
Colour Blindness Genetics: Can Women Be Colour Blind?
It may be surprising to hear that women CAN be colour blind! While it’s rare (only about 1 in 200 women has the condition), it’s very possible. Colour blindness is inherited on the X chromosome; men have only one while women have two. The gene must be present on both X chromosomes for a woman to be colour blind, therefore making it far rarer than in men, who would only have to have the gene present on one X chromosome. Due to its rarity, you might run into some “experts” who try to convince you that female colour blindness does not exist. Next time someone tries to tell you otherwise, send them our way and we can give them some facts!
Are you sure? I read on Google that girls can’t be [colourblind]
The most annoying statement has been ‘Girls can't be colourblind’ And after explaining briefly how they can, they repeated the statement
What Colour Is This? I’ve Heard This One Before...
Perhaps one of the more frustrating questions about colour blindness posed to the colour deficient community is, “What colour is this?” It’s just like the question I used to hear on the playground: “Is your red my red?” We all want to know if what we see is different than what our friends see. While there is no way to determine exactly how another person sees, we do know that the typical colours are skewed when one is colour blind and can at least explain how normal colour vision is different. Based on the feedback we received, if you want to know more about someone’s colour blindness, we do not recommend starting with “what colour is this?”
This isn't the strangest but the most annoying one is, Then what colour is this?
What colour is this, what an annoying question…
What colour is this? What colour is that?
Demystifying the World of Colour Vision Deficiency
At EnChroma, it’s our goal to help those with colour blindness unlock their colour vision. We also strive to help demystify the world of colour vision deficiency for those who may not fully understand it. While the odd questions can be entertaining, we encourage the curiosity. Asking and answering questions helps to spread knowledge about this surprisingly common condition that may affect more people than you know. So, the next time someone asks you something about your colour vision, send them our way. We’d be happy to answer any questions they have, no matter how strange.