Color Blind – What is Color Blindness?

Color Blind - What is Color Blindness?Being color blind or color defective means not being able to see certain colors clearly. The word ‘color blindness’ is often misleading, in that; people who suffer from it are ‘not blind’ but are simply unable to see some colors properly.

It is very important to note that very few people who are color blind are ‘blind to all colors’. Typical colors which most color blind individuals see differently are: red, green, yellow and orange. Additionally, not all forms of the condition are inherited; sometimes a change in chromosome during development can also lead to it.

In Europe, nearly 7% males and 1% females have inherited color blindness. Of the different types of color blindness, red-green color type is inherited; blue color blindness affects 5% of the total number of color blind people around the world and blue-yellow deficiency exists though very rarely.

Scientific explanation for color blindness

The retina of the human eye has two types of cells, rods and cones. Rod cells help us see at night in shades of black, white and grey. Cone cells, on the other hand, react to brightness or light and help us distinguish shapes of objects. Cone cells are also able to understand different colors.

There are three kinds of cone cells in the retina.  In case of color blind people, certain kinds of cone cells are lacking and this leads to the inability to distinguish certain colors.

What does it mean being color blind?

  • People with color blindness are able to do most tasks easily but sometimes face irritating or annoying situations like being unable to tell which fruit is ripe and which is raw.
  • Another area where color blindness might impact one’s daily life is being unable to distinguish between traffic light colors. Hence, certain driving restrictions may be imposed on such people. Many countries do not allow a driver’s license to red-green color blind individuals. Others do not permit color blind individuals to drive commercial vehicles or drive at all at night.
  • Children with this condition may be unable to tell different colored blocks in school.
  • Certain occupations can be hazardous to the color blind, for example: being unable to distinguish between color coded wires or being unable to tell colored lights which signal danger etc.

How to help children who are color blind?

  • Parents should gently explain to their color blind child as to what the condition is all about. This will help one understand why s/he is facing difficulty in tasks which others are able to do easily.
  • Teachers must  use different teaching techniques to help color blind children understand and learn without having to differentiate between colors.
  • For older children with the ability to read, parents and teachers can help by writing down the color names on their markers or pencils so that one can pick the right hues while coloring.

Families with color blindness

There are many expert recommended precautions that families with this condition ought to follow:

  • Families with either parent carrying the gene for color blindness must ensure having their children, especially boys, tested for color vision problems. Such testing is typically done at the age when the child knows his numbers. Families, where both parents carry the gene, must even have their girls tested for it.
  • Schools need to be equipped with Ishihara color plates and other color blindness tests for testing color vision in students.
  • Once color blindness is diagnosed using preliminary tests, further testing may be essential. This is to help determine if the individual might be prohibited from getting a driver’s license or doing certain kinds of jobs in the future.

There are many different types and degrees of color vision problems. Most people who are color blind might make occasional mistakes in color names or may encounter difficulties in daily life. Typically, however, most perform well and are able to carry on independently. It is essential for parents to be aware of this condition and deal with it positively rather than constantly questioning their child to identify colors around the house. This might only lead him/her to clam up and have self-esteem problems.

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