Coral Springs Florida, 11/28/2022 :
Imagine for a moment you are approaching a traffic signal. The driver of the car is trying to figure out whether it is a green light or red. The driver looks at it from a distance and quickly makes a determination it is red. He applies the brakes swiftly and you and any other passengers begin to understand the need for seat belts. It is why you told them to buckle up! The driver is colorblind: just like 1 out of every 12 males and 1 out of every 200 females in the USA.
I am colorblind, and the term the doctors use is ‘Moderately’ colorblind, which means I can’t understand most colors. What you perceive as green, or red I can’t perceive the difference. Same deal with others, like purple and blue, and bright green and bright yellow. I have learned to live with the handicap – there are a lot worse things in life and certainly not matching clothes, seems to be at the bottom of the list.
Can you Catch Colorblindness?
Colorblindness occurs naturally, and it depends on the eye receptors, called Rods and Cones . Cones are the ones that relate to color. If you are one of the 7.5 % of the male and .5% female population you inherited a defective gene that made the cones less sensitive.
Red-green colorblindness ( can’t tell the differences between them), is the most common. However, I am uncommon having problems with red-green, brown-red, blue-green , blue purple, and a host of other combinations.
The thing is, I see colors, but just can’t tell which is which. ( Great article on the Cleveland Clinic Website – Click here)
If your Mother is Colorblind…
They discovered my colorblindness at school in the 2nd grade.
At a meeting between my parents and the teacher, my Mom and Dad were told I was a trouble maker. The teacher indicated I did not follow instructions and made fun of her when I color. She gave instructions to color in various objects with the right colors. I colored the sky purple, the grass red, and the red house brown.
“Perhaps the boy is colorblind”, my father said.
“Why do you think so?” replied the teacher.
“Because I am”, declared my mother.
According to genetics, if a mother is colorblind all her male children will be also, and her daughter will carry the gene. The school gave me the colorblindness test. They placed colored circles in front of me and asked what numbers did I see in each of them. I saw nothing they normal . Numbers I saw were not even on their charts .
The Colorblindness Game Show
Shopping for clothes , with so many colors and matches to make has always been a challenge. I almost never buy clothes on my own, since there is no way for me to know how to match any of the colors.
However, circumstances come up. I went shopping at one of the major department stores, when a salesperson came over to me and said:
“Can I help You?”
“Yes, I am Colorblind and I need you to tell me which shirt matches which pair of pants”, I replied.
The salesperson held both hands cupped to the salespersons mouth forming a sort of megaphone screaming :
” OK!!! I CAN HELP YOU WITH YOUR COLOR PROBLEM !!!
“Hey! I am not deaf . Just colorblind!” I shout back, cupping my hands around my mouth for effect.
Some people don’t seem to understand.
How about the inquisitive minded individuals having found out the secret you are colorblind, come up to you and say:
” I hear you’re colorblind. Ok what color are my blue jeans?”
“Blue” , I respond patiently awaiting the next almost always response:
“Right!” they say surprised by the guilty answer. “Your not colorblind!” they accuse.
” Yes I am , but I am not an idiot “
“GUESS THE RIGHT COLOR” game show. This is one ‘normal’ people always want to play with me this game, after they find out I am colorblind.
For 20 points , What color is the grass ?
” Let see…..Green?” providing a long drawl sound on the eeeee and nnnnn. Duh. Green leaves, green grass … boring.
“Your right!” says the game show host.
“Now for the bonus question and more fun and entertainment at your expense for 20 points What colors are in the flag of the United States of America ?”
“Oh – a tough one – ( timer continues to sound tick by tick in the background while I drag the answer out as much as I can to enjoy the moment).
“Red , White and ……..Blue?” shaking my head yet once again as I ponder will this ever get any better. Sort of reminds me of people that find out I am originally from Montreal and they want to know if it is near Spain.
There is no prize money to win even though I have never lost a match. Arm wrestling would be more challenging.
I always found my handicap to be a distinct advantage. Not being able to tell colors means they are insignificant to me. My mind doesn’t have to waste its time on deciding if something goes well with something else, or “Take a look at that woman’s purse. It doesn’t match her shoes!” You see, being colorblind removes all envious talk and keeps things nice and simple.
It even works better when I get accused of choosing the wrong color.!
It’s amazing how people will just lie to you about their mistake. It happened to me when I contracted a local carpet company who sold me carpets. My wife picked the color. When they brought the wrong color carpet, the owner said it was the right color and that I , not my wife, chose it.
“Are you sure I chose the color?”, I questioned with a little smile developing at the corner of mouth .
“definitely.” He replied. He even went on as to how I liked one shade of green because it had a little yellow in it.
” Green is not a color familiar to me since I am Colorblind “. I replied with the smile even more prominent than before.
” Ah….Oh….Well….mmm….baaaaa….”.He bleated like a goat. I was waiting for him to ask me what color the grass was…just to test me. A few months later, he was out of business. It was probably due to his bad luck in selling carpet to the 8% of the male population is colorblind.
GREEN IS RED SO RED IS GREEN
People have a hard time understanding my handicap. They think being colorblind means you see a red object as green or a green object as red. They can’t understand why I can’t just do the process of substitution and think whenever I see red say green and green say red. Well it is not simple. Let me explain.
You go to a Chinese restaurant and a Chinese waiter takes your order. He speaks Chinese to another waiter. You know its Chinese, but do you know if he is speaking Mandarin or Cantonese? You can’t tell the difference. Same with colors with me. I see colors, I know they are colorful, but I can’t tell the difference between most of them. It doesn’t matter what they are, I guess at them anyways.
On a business trip I took to Antigua several years ago, my wife tried to help me out with a system where I could match clothes. She was not going with me on this trip and she knew how sensitive I was to dressing properly (Actually I couldn’t care less, but she didn’t want me to look like a fool..) So she developed a system whereby all I would have to do is match numbers. Like the shirt with the number 1 in the pocket matches the pants with the number 1.
She didn’t let me in on her formula for success, and said “don’t worry, I have it covered. You’ll figure out what I did when you arrive in Antigua.” I didn’t quiz her anymore, because she looked so proud of herself, and I am a sensitive person.
When I arrived at Antigua and got to the hotel I unpacked my suitcase. As I hung up one of the shirts on a hangar, a piece of paper fell out of the breast pocket with the number 1 on it.
I placed the number on the bed and continued to unpack. Sure enough another number 1 was in the pants pocket. I placed it on the bed also as I hung up my pants.
Strange I thought to myself, the dry cleaner would put inspection tickets in the clothes.
You know, Inspected by #3 etc. By the time I completely unpacked my suitcase the bed had several tickets on it just like a lottery, with all the 1’s 2’s and 3’s on the bed. There, at the bottom of the suitcase was a letter.
“Dear…Have a nice time. Remember 1 goes with 1 and 2 goes with 2”.
I placed the letter on the bed with the numbers. You see, the suit case I have had zippers on both sides. I must have placed the suitcase with the wrong side up. My wife packed the letter on the top in the suitcase was now the bottom. The good news : I dressed myself, very colorfully, and in Antigua…everyone dressed like that. They must all be colorblind too.
Work Restrictions for the Colorblind
Being color blind, there are certain professions I cannot belong to. I cannot be a police officer for I will have a hard time describing what color was the perpetrator’s car or what color was the shirt he was wearing. I cannot become a pilot of an aircraft as the warning lights are different colors. Hairdressing is definitely out of the question and forget about becoming a graphic artist.
The interesting fact is in World War II, colorblind men were sent on special missions, because their decreased ability to see green, led to an increased ability to see through or detect camouflage. So, I can enlist and become a ‘Bombardier’ dropping bombs, and fly missions in the B2 – as long as I don’t fly the plane.
In those movies where they are always cutting the one wire of the explosive device, and they say cut the green one- you don’t want me to be the one doing the cutting or the other 8% of the population. So no bomb squad technician job for me.
My brother is also colorblind. He is an architect and made sure to fully understand colors and combinations of colors so no one really knows he is colorblind. However there are tools now available as extensions or even Apps to help color blind people cope with everyday multicolor environment. For instance search on WHATCOLOR and google has an app for this.
Traffic Lights: Always a Challenge
For many years, I actually thought the light at the bottom of the traffic light white. It is what I saw it as. I thought the green light was something people called it long ago when traffic lights were invented.
When my I got married, by wife cleared this up quickly , explaining to me the white light I was seeing was in fact a bright Green. did not improve my driving skills but it was good to know anyway.
The world we live in is not Colorblind Friendly. Take the traffic lights for instance. Since the only way I can truly know which signal is which is from position, where the green light is on the bottom and the red light is on the top.
In Coral Springs, they installed horizontal traffic lights. Now I need to make sure I know my right from left instead of my top from my bottom.
It really makes it a challenge to drive.
Other communities take this problem seriously, and put different shapes in place. The red signals are square, the yellow ones are diamonds, and the green light is round. Makes sense as 8% of the male population has some color deficiency, and 4% of the drivers do also. ( 51 Percent Female, 49 percent male).
Maybe it is why there are so many people in South Florida running red lights.
Best is a flashing single light . It could be red or yellow. Yellow means slow down red means stop then proceed. Big difference. No one thinks about it much except if you’re colorblind, you tend to avoid those streets.
Another problem comes with toll booths. At a toll booth in South Florida you have 2 horizontal lights above it. However, color blind people have trouble determining which one is which. Why not have an open sign or a sign that says ‘closed’? It’s so simple. However Government is not colorblind despite them declaring that they are all the time.
My wife wanted me to get a Tesla with the fully autonomous driving capability. I always have it on, and the car slows down and even stops whenever the traffic light is red. It also beeps when the light turns green. Thank you Elon Musk.
Colorblind People are Needy
Being colorblind means you need to depend on people. They have to tell you the color of the pen you are writing with , or what clothes match.
When my wife is disturbed at me for some reason or another, she’ll mix up my socks on purpose – like a red and green one together, or pink and blue. Especially a lime green shirt with a pair of brown pants. It looks really snazzy…She giggles to herself as I leave the house…
“What are you giggling about” I ask.
She says ” Nothing dear”.
I walk into the office, and everyone says to me
“Had a fight with the wife ?” Obviously they notice the rainbow colors I cannot notice.
Boy, wives can be very sneaky.
Colors can be Funny
For me there are several colors I consider really funny. Take Peach.
When someone says the dress has a peachy color to it, I respond:
“Hey I am having trouble telling the difference between with Yellow and Green, leave the fruits out of it”.
Mauve and Taupe are also two funny colors to me, but I can pronounce them the right way. The funniest has to be Khaki for obvious reasons. Colorblind people can laugh also you know.
I was at a gender reveal party when the parents of the new to be born baby reveal if it will be a boy or a girl. They placed a certain color ballon in a box apparently Blue for boys and Pink for Girls.
When the parents opened the box and the balloons popped out, I screamed ” It’s going to be a Girl”, since I saw pink balloons – or what I thought they were .
The mother, who had already two boys was sort of hoping for a girl. She knew otherwise, having seen the test results, and personally loading the blue balloons in the box earlier in the day. However, for a 1/4 of a second she marveled in how she may have been wrong and I may have been right – those were really pink balloons, and not really blue. 1/4 of second reality sets in. Blue – A boy. Of course. It was not a great feeling letting her down for a 1/4 of a second.
ColorBlind SunGlasses to Cure you
Everyone seems to want to recommend the new sunglasses apparently cure you of colorblindness. I bought a pair wanting to see what all the fuss over colors was about. Especially those didn’t see. They So called Colorblindness glasses only made things brighter for me, enhancing those colors I have problems with. I was able to see more colors I cannot identify, with the glasses on or off..
Making Green stronger for instances, does not make me see ‘Green’ when I see Red or vice versa. It did make the leaves of the trees look pretty, whatever color they are. I gave back the glasses, and got a complete refund. Now I wear regular sun glasses, while thinking about the snake oils salesman and company associated with the BS.
What Needs to Be Done
- It is important government and business understand 8 % of the entire population are affected by simple things people take for granted.
- Cash machines tell you to press the green button to accept – instead of saying press the circle at the bottom right of the key pad.
- Putting Green and Red together affects 3% of the entire population, have problems telling them apart. So we need to fix the traffic lights, doing what other countries of the world have done. Square for red, diamond for yellow and round for Green. Flashing traffic lights need to be better defined, especially if they are a single light. Same with Toll booths : Simple closed or Open would suffice.
- Score boards need to be color sensitive. At the Florida Panther’s game I could barely read any of the information on the score board since the colors they chose are not colorblind friendly.
- Apple at least has a setting let’s you apply a colorblind filter to the display, so it is readable. Other companies, should do the same especially TV manufacturers.
- Redlining documents should be highlighted in the background with Yellow since most colorblind people have a problem distinguishing between the black and the dark red.
- Warning lights are the biggest problem red off or danger versus green on or good. Would be better to have Yellow and Blue for instance.
There are so many other places were the world takes for granted everyone sees things the way they do. It’s time we change.
I like the way I am thank you
I don’t think I would like to see colors like you do. The world seems to be so preoccupied with it. Colors are insignificant to me and I want them to remain that way. My world is quite simple when I do not have to worry about what color other people are wearing or worried about the color of my house. Yours is more complicated.
Perhaps the best feeling I get is when I tell someone I am colorblind and they think it means I am not prejudice against people of color. Funny, I never use to think about it. Everyone looks so much alike when skin color is not an issue.
Perhaps what the world really needs are more colorblind people like me. It would be such a colorful place, wouldn’t it?
by Howard Melamed
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Editor’s note : I published a similar article to the one above on September 9 2001, two days before 9/11. I decided to rewrite it, and add to it since I am still colorblind, and nothing knew seems to have changed to help 🙂