What is colour blindness?
Well, to be more correct, it should be called colour deficiency. It's not as though people with this problem are blind in any way, it's just that their colour vision is defective. I am one of the 10% of males who are affected with this. To try to explain what it's like, imagine looking at the world through a piece of glass that's tinted red, green or blue. You will still be able to see colours through the glass, but they are strangely different. Your entire colour balance is shifted, not only the red or green shades that people seem to think the problems are restricted to.
In everyday life, it's no huge problem for me. I'm forbidden from entering certain professions, and I have to be careful what I wear. I hate shopping for clothes! The condition is more embarrassing than problematic. I have to think twice when someone asks me to get the red book from the shelf, or to talk to the woman in the brown jacket, or to look at the car with the green upholstery. Many people, when told that I have a colour problem, fire off questions about traffic lights and whether I should be allowed to drive. In practice, I can see the difference clearly between the red and green lights, and in any case the position of the lights and sequencing should tell you what they are. I do have trouble distinguishing between the red and amber lights though, especially from a distance.
However, what really annoys me is people who think I've not got fed up of entertaining them when they find out I'm colour blind and ask me what the colour of that carpet is, and what is the colour of the shirt I'm wearing, and what colour I think grass is. Also, when things are made more difficult unnecessarily, and companies that do not understand what it's all about...
- Electronic goods
Why do so many things indicate whether they're on or in standby, or whether it's "OK" or "not OK" via an LED that switches between red and green? Apart from a small change in brightness level sometimes, I can't tell the difference. For example, the Sky Digibox. And card swipe readers that let you through a door.
- Sky satellite
Apart from the on/off LED on the box, the remote control has 4 coloured buttons on it. When you use interactive services, you get instructions to "Press O", where "O" is a coloured blob on the screen that you're meant to associate with another coloured blob on the remote control. The shades are completely different, there is no way someone like me can identify that the blob on the screen is a shade of green and then find another shade of green on the remote control. This is what it might look like to someone with a colour deficiency.
Press for Yes, for No
I wrote to Sky suggesting that remote controls should have the coloured buttons labelled with A, B, C and D as all the other buttons are labelled, and that on-screen instructions should be changed to say "Press B". The reply I received was that they have no plans to do this but that my suggestion will be passed to the relevant people. Over 3 years later, there is no progress. I have seen some screens now saying "Press Green" instead of having a coloured blob, but this is only half a solution. It only helps people who have perfect colour vision and are watching on black and white TVs.
They could even issue stickers to place over the buttons and send them out with the monthly magazine. Mind you, very few people read the magazine anyway and anything loose that's inserted into the magazine usually gets tipped straight into the bin. (And that brings me to another point - instead of raising the subscriptions all the time, why don't they get rid of the magazine and save us all some money?). Anyway, this is how it should have been done.
Press for Yes, for No
- Theme Parks
Chessington World of Adventures recently revamped their Forbidden Tomb attraction with an interactive laser shooting system that seems to be very trendy at theme parks these days. Riders have their own guns with which they shoot targets dotted around the interior of the ride. I found it quite fun, but a bit frustrating. The gun didn't seem responsive, I couldn't seem to hit many targets and I would spend ages concentrating on one target to try and register a hit. It wasn't until afterwards I found out that you don't have to be particularly accurate with your aim and that the lights on the targets change colour when you hit them, so telling you that you've hit it and can move onto another target. Once someone has hit a target, the colour tells you it is unavailable for a certain length of time. In other words, I was completely wasting my time by trying to hit a target I'd already hit or that someone else had hit.
When it became known that Alton Towers were going to retro-fit their Haunted House with an interactive shooting system, I wrote to them immediately and asked them to consider colour deficient riders and to install targets that flashed or went off when you hit them instead of changing colour. But did they listen? Of course they didn't! Duel suffers from the same problem and is irritating and confusing to 10% of males that ride it.
- Software and Web Sites
Why do a lot of programs and web sites give you information that is colour coded, especially in red or green which are the worst possible colours they could have chosen? There is a particularly good example in Microsoft Word, which you can see in one of the links below.
Further reading on colour blindness.
- Ishihara Tests for Colour blindness - yes, lots of coloured spots to look at!
- Ishihara Color Vision Test - another version, plus information.
- What do colour blind people see? - images that change colour as a simulation of what colour blind people see. Requires Java.
- Causes of Color - technical explanations.
- Colour Blindness, Causes and Effects - informative book by Don McIntyre.