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?
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.