Tag Archives: colour blindness

do glasses for colour blindness work?


For a while there have been coloured lenses on the market that claim that to make colour blindness better. I have my doubts about this. I have tested some of these glasses in my own research and found that they do not work. So I was interested to hear of work by Rebecca Mastey and Richard Schultz at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay that also finds that the products do not work. The researchers tested products from with 27 men with genetically confirmed red-green colour blindness.

The O2 Amp glasses showed some improvement with deuteranomalous observers and deuteranopes, no improvement was found for protonopes whilst the EnChroma glasses had no significant impact on the red-green colour discrimination of any of the participants. The work was presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in Seattle.

“The data confirm that these glasses don’t work,” says Dr. Carroll. “In fact, they make some aspects of your vision worse.”

Out of interest, there is also this personal story about a guy with anomalous trichromacy who tested some glasses from EnChroma and fond they made no difference at all.

Looking for colour blind people

colour blind example

Most colour blindness is hereditary. The faulty ‘gene’ for colour blindness is found only on the X chromosome. You have two X chromosomes if you are female or an X and a Y chromosome if you are male. It is because females have two copies of the X chromosome that they are far less likely to be colour blind. A male inherits his X chromosome from his mother and his Y chromosome from his father. So men do not inherit colour blindness from their fathers but from their mothers who can be carriers if they have one faulty X chromosome. Snoooooooooze. Probably you are bored reading this. The real point of this post is to say that Bradford University in the UK are studying colour blindness and are seeking females who are not colour blind but who have a child or a sibling who is. If this sounds like you please get involved in the study, help someone get their PhD, and maybe find out something interesting and useful. For more details see here.

how colour vision works


Really super article by Ana Swanson in the Washington Post about colour vision and how it works. As she explains, it is not really correct to think of the long wavelength visible light as being red. It is better, as Newton knew of course, to say that the long-wavelength light has the ability to cause the sensation of redness in us. She gives a nice visual example of how the spectrum looks to a dog, something (by coincidence) that I was only talking about in a lecture last week. As she says:

Is what I see as “blue” really the same thing as what you see as “blue”? Or have we both learned the same name for something that looks different to each of us?

Her article is really worth reading.

There is just one thing I take issue with. It may be ‘nit picking’. But she says “A green leaf, for example, reflects green wavelengths of light and absorbs everything else.”

My image, at the top of this post, shows the reflectance of a typical yellow object. At each wavelength the reflectance is between 0 and 100 per cent. But notice that it is not zero at any wavelength in the range shown (400-700nm). That means that the object reflects light at every wavelength. And it is not 100 at any wavelength meaning that it also absorbs to some extent at every wavelength. It’s just it absorbs more at the shorter wavelengths than at the longer wavelengths and it reflects more at the longer wavelengths than at the shorter ones. But notice one other remarkable thing – the yellow object reflects more light at 700nm (a wavelength we would normally associate with red) than it does at 580nm (a wavelength we might normally associate with yellow).

Yes, the reflected light does look yellow. But, the notion that a “A yellows object reflects yellow wavelengths of light” is misleading. It suggests that the yellow object only reflects, for example, the wavelengths in the spectrum we would normally think of as yellow (around 580nm) and absorbs the rest. This is just not how things are.

Extraordinary facts relating to the vision of colours

In 1794 John Dalton presented a lecture to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society about colour vision. The first two sentences are shown below:

It has been observed, that our ideas of colours, sounds, tastes, etc. excited by the same object may be very different in themselves, without our being aware of it; and that we may nevertheless converse intelligibly concerning such objects, as if we were certain the impressions made by them on our minds were exactly similar. All, indeed, that is required for this purpose, is, that the same object should uniformly make the same impression on each mind; and that objects that appear different to one should be equally so to others.

It is interesting to reread this sentence again in the light of the recent controversy about the blue and black dress.


high blood pressure affects colour vision


Drinking alcohol not only affects your speech and balance. It can also affect your colour vision. Not just alcohol. Various drugs (some contraceptives and analgesics, for example) make you less good at discriminating between colours. And there are a load of medical conditions that also affect your colour vision including MS and diabetes. In fact, often a deterioration in colour vision can be one of the first indications of a problem. This is why it is a good idea, from a health perspective, to have your vision checked by a qualified professional on a regular basis.

Now some research from Japan suggests that deterioration in colour vision may be a predictor of hypertension – a condition in which the arteries have persistently elevated blood pressure. The study looked at 872 men aged between 20 and 60. They found that, when other factors were taken into account, as blood pressure values rose, the odds of having impaired colour vision increased as well.

For further information see here.

colour and accessibility

Just came a across a superb article by Geri Coady, a designer and illustrator living in Newfoundland (Canada) about the importance of designers taking into account the fact that about 5% of the population in the world are colour blind. Well, it’s mainly men of course ….. but that’s all the more reason to take into account [joking].

Some really excellent advice about how to take colour blindness into account in design work. She talks about problems with the use of colour in London’s iconic underground map (see my blog about colour blindness and maps). She also comments on a game (Faster than Light) that has a colour-blind mode; I mentioned last week that SimCity was doing something similar. About time. It’s so lazy not to take colour blindness into account in the digital environment. There are also some great links to simulators.

what is it like to be colour blind?

Another simulator on the market that shows you what your image or website would look like to someone who is colour blind. This one is from a company called ETRE – for further details see http://www.etre.com/tools/colourblindsimulator/

In the image series below the left image is normal and the ones in the middle and right show protonopia and deuteranopia respectively.


For more on colour blindness see my earlier post.

SimCity for the Colour Blind

A while ago I posted about whether colour blindness was something that designers should take more seriously. After all, about 8% of all the men in the world are colour blind. Of course, this does not mean that they cannot see colour (the term, colour blindness is a bit of a misnomer) but it does mean that they have difficulty discriminating between colours that the rest of us can easily tell apart. In my original post I was referring to the computer game, Call of Duty, and whether the gameplay could be reduced for colour blind players who may have difficulty telling the various colour tags apart that appear on the screen.


So it was quite interesting that I just came across news that the developers of SimCity have added three special colour filters that make adjustments to the colours on screen so that colour blind players can better discriminate. A great idea – but about time!!

on-line test for colour blindness

Quite a lot of people are colour blind and have poor colour discrimination. There are tests that can be carried out and these include the Ishihara test (which is a screening test that I certainly remember from School) and the Munsell 100-hue test (where people have to arrange a number of coloured discs in order). These tests need to be performed whilst being viewed in daylight. There are online tests but these are less reliable – partly because the viewing conditions vary such a lot. I recently came across a new online test provide by X-rite. It seems to be based on the 100-hue test (or, at least, something similar) and I can see how it could work, despite being an on-line test). I just had a go. It gave me a score of 34 and suggested that for my age group (and gender) the best score was 0 (perfect colour acuity) and the worst was 99 (low colour acuity). Hmmmmmmmmm. I have a version of the 100-hue test and I can perform it perfectly. My real score should be 0. I have perfect colour discrimination. So, much as I like the X-rite test, I have not changed my opinion that on-line tests like these should be used for fun and should be understood to not provide an accurate assessment of your colour vision. On the other hand, it could just be bitter because I only scored 34. 🙁