Color blind students see past struggles

Graphic by Om Patel

Graphic by Om Patel

Madeline Hussey, staff writer

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The holidays are here. Bright colors are everywhere. Blue and white for Hanukkah and green and red for Christmas. However, .5 percent of women and 8 percent of men can’t see those colors because of color vision deficiency, also known as color blindness, according to the National Eye Institute. Additionally, the Institute states that while red-green color blindness is the most common form, blue-yellow is also common in the color blind population.

Sophomore John Linden has red-green color blindness, which means it’s hard to distinguish between the two hues. He said that many people overlook the frequency of color blindness and are often taken aback when they find out that he is color blind.

“Most yellows look green and most browns look red and most reds look brown—it’s like the same color almost,” Linden said. “A lot of people think I’m lying, but it’s actually not that rare to be color blind.”

Another student, senior Joe Voight, said he has a type of red-green color blindness called deuteranomaly that causes the red and green cones in his eyes to overlap and detect excess red light and limited amounts of green light. As a result, red, green, yellow and brown can all seem similar in appearance, in much the same way as Linden’s condition. Despite having this condition since he was born, Voight said the first time he found out he had it was in middle school, and he was surprised because he never realized red and green weren’t supposed to look the same.

“I didn’t know [I was color blind] until sixth grade, and even then it hasn’t really impacted my daily life,” Voight said. “It just kind of makes red and green look more similar to each other, [so] it’s kind of hard to distinguish them, but when they’re really bright I can kind of see how different they are. But if the object is far away or I’m just glancing at it, then it’s more difficult.”

One difficulty that comes with color blindness is driving, Voight stated. He explained that when he cannot distinguish the traffic light colors, he has to resort to other measures to figure out how to respond to the light.

“I feel like driving is the hardest,” Voight pointed out. “The older [traffic lights are] harder to tell [apart] and then you have to go by [the light’s] position, which is kind of difficult.”

In contrast with Voight, Linden said it is not that challenging for him to differentiate traffic light colors because of the way lights are engineered.

“Traffic lights [are] designed to give off a whiter light and then more of an amber light for yellow,” Linden said.

Beyond their opinions on the road, both Linden and Voight acknowledged that being color blind restricts them from certain occupations, such as being Air Force pilots, because green and white lights are used to signal planes.

“[It’s] kind of a bummer because [being a pilot would be] something I’d love to do,” Linden admitted.

Sophomore Billy Fradin, who has red-green color blindness, said he used to struggle with identifying colored pencils when he was asked to pick them out. He explained that he has developed ways to overcome his color blindness, like reading labels, but when he was younger it was much harder for him to adapt.

“As I’ve gotten older it’s become easier and easier to adapt to, but when I was younger, it was harder,” Fradin said. “When I was placed in things like art classes, I would never know what color things were, but now I’m able to figure it out. I’m able to identify colors now; looking at crayons, I’m able to understand what’s what. There’s always ways to overcome it.”

Although there is no cure for color blindness, some products can correct colors that are deficient. For example, Fradin said he had red-tinted glasses that corrected the colors he was unable to see, but the glasses also over-corrected the colors he was able to see normally, so he decided not to wear them.

Linden, Fradin and Voight all stated that their color blindness comes from their mother’s side of the family.

“[It] comes from my grandpa on the X chromosome, so my mom must’ve been carrying it and given it to me,” Voight said.

All three of them said that people seem shocked when someone first finds out they are color blind. Voight and Linden agreed that people tend to overreact, and that being color blind isn’t as shocking as it’s made out to be.

“It’s not as big of a deal as people think it is,” Voight revealed. “When I tell people I’m color blind, they kind of freak out: ‘oh, what color is this, what color is this.’”

Linden hopes that in the future people will be more considerate when asking their questions.

“If someone tells you they’re color blind, don’t start asking what color things are,” Linden said. “It makes [me] feel bad, and [asking those questions is] what everybody likes to do.”