Being Colorblind in a World Full of Color

Color blindness is a malfunction of the retina, which converts light energy into electrical energy that is translated to the brain. It is extremely rare for someone to be totally color blind. Most people actually have a form of color deficiency. There are several types of color deficiency. The person may tell another that he is color blind, but this does not necessarily mean that he sees no color at all. He may not be able to tell red from green or blue from purple, but he sees colors.

There are different types of color deficiency:  Anomalous Trichromacy – A mild shift in the sensitivity of pigments of the cones in the back of the eyes: Protanomaly – shades of red appear weaker in  brightness; Deuteranomaly – shades of green appear weaker; Tritanomaly – very rare case where shades of blue appear weaker; Dichromacy – Great deficiency or missing completely one of the cones; Protanopia – shades of red are greatly reduced, if present at all, in brightness; Deuteranopia – shades of green are greatly reduced, if present at all, in brightness; Tritanopia – very rare case where shades of blue are greatly reduced, if present at all, in brightness.

There are a few methods for Color Blindness testing. The most used is the Ishihara plates test. This test consists of plates that contain a circle filled with bubbles in shades of colors to be tested. In this circle is formed certain numbers that people with certain color deficiency will not be able to distinguish. To take a color blindness test and get a color scheme of different color deficiency, please visit

Color blindness mainly affects males, although females are rarely affected. Females are usually carriers of the color blind trait, passing the condition to their male children. When females are color blind, they almost never have the rarest form in which no color is seen.

This author had a maternal grandfather who was totally color blind. He and his wife had thirteen children, six girls and seven boys. Four of the sons were color blind. Three of the girls were color blind. This author’s mother is one of the color blind girls. Was it blind luck, pun intended, that she married a man who is totally color blind? What are the odds? I guess we will have to ask an expert. As it turned out, this author’s parents had three sons and two daughters. The three sons are color blind and this author has a form of color blindness. The only person in the house, as the author was growing up, was the one sister who tried very hard to get everyone dressed properly before leaving the house every morning.

This author knows first-hand what it means to be color blind and color deficient. It is a strange and embarrassing thing to borrow a person’s green mustang to go to the store, then totally lose the car after leaving the store. “Yes, officer. I need help finding the car I drove to the store in.”

“Was it your car?”

“No sir, I borrowed it from my boyfriend.”

“What color is it?”

“I was told it was green, but it looked blue to me, I think. Actually, I can’t remember what color it is. I don’t have color memory.”

“Miss, I think you need to take a breathalyzer test. Wait right here for me, okay? I will be right back.”

Everyone around you loves to play the “What color is that?” game. Then, people try to teach the color blind their colors as though it is just a matter of never having been properly taught in the first place. People get frustrated with the color handicapped folks. “No, you can’t wear that blouse with those slacks. I have told you before that they do not match. Why are you wearing one blue sock and one green one?”

It never occurs to teachers that a child might have a color deficiency. They just plaster a big red, or is it orange, F across the colored sheet with a note about not following instructions to color the sky blue, the grass green, and the schoolhouse red. Sometimes there is a note suggesting a parent might want to help their child learn her colors. Which color blind parent might do the better job, you think?

What does it mean to be color blind? It means you send your children to school in clothes that do not match. It means you can’t give a description of the clothes the man was wearing when he snatched your purse. Heck, you can’t even remember what color the purse was.

Being color blind in a family who has color deficiencies means the neighbors point and laugh as they pass the house you live in. People call you eccentric for wearing wild colors and laugh behind your back when you wear one black shoe and one blue shoe.

Being color blind is not such a bad thing, overall. It does get worse as you age and driving at night is almost impossible. It does mean that you can’t picture the color of the material you bought for a dress when you go shopping for the thread that matches. Your cross-stitch, crocheted, and embroidered projects are looked upon as modern progressive works of art.

What does it mean to be color blind? It means there are a few careers you might not be the very best at, such as interior decorators – or any type of decorator. It might be best if you did not choose to become a kindergarten teacher or a bomb de-fuser. Being color blind means that you enjoy what colors you do see and it really doesn’t matter what someone else says the color is. If you like it, who cares what people call it.

If someone in your office is color blind, don’t send them for the salmon-colored copy paper. Don’t ask them to help you decide what colors to repaint the office walls. Never ask them to help decorate for the holidays.

The next time you spot a man wearing a red shirt with a green-checked tie and a dark navy sport coat, please don’t laugh. He thinks he looks just fine. After all, it just might be this author’s dad, or brother. It could be this author’s uncle or nephew. Be kind. Those who are color blind may never see it, but they do make the world a more colorful place to live.

Read on: Central Heterochromia