Before I dive into this, please note: I am, in no way, looking for sympathy. I’ve dealt with this my entire life and I’ve learned to handle just about every situation that comes as a result. What I am doing, however, is asking people to THINK before they speak once they discover that someone struggles with this.
Imagine playing video games with a group of your friends and one of them frantically yells out, “shoot the red one” But you don’t see the color red that well (sometimes not all). Try playing Monopoly and someone says I’ll trade you for the green property over there (all they had to say was “Pennsylvania Avenue”). These, and many other experiences, are common to individuals who experience color vision deficiency (aka “color blindness”). A condition that I’ve lived with my entire life.
Color blindness (which really isn’t a form of blindness) impacts the way I see colors (specifically red and green). I won’t attempt to go into the scientific details. But simply put, my retinas don’t respond to certain colors of light the way they are supposed to. Since this condition is hereditary and mostly affects men, I’d like to thank my grandfather and dad. I’d also like to wish my own son good luck in figuring this out as well😊
Not being able to see two of the three primary colors is usually more embarrassing than anything else. Not because I’m ashamed or feel dumb, but it’s mostly because of the uninformed comments that people often make. Below are the top five inquiries that I get (and I absolutely cannot stand) when people discover that I struggle with this:
- What color am I wearing now?
- So how do you drive?
- Do you only see black and white?
- But didn’t get a degree in graphic design?
- You wear all of those bright colored clothes. How do you see them?
So I decided to create a list of “best practices” that you can employ when you discover, or it is revealed to you, that someone is color blind.
1. Don’t point to random objects and ask what color they see.
I’m able to laugh about it with people and not get upset. Others, however, may not be. If someone tells you they are color blind or you notice them struggling to identify an object, try assuring them that you didn’t know and don’t become super awkward after.
2. Don’t become a talk show host and ask about how they were able to make it this far in life.
Color blind people do not see like dogs! Most of us can see an entire spectrum of colors…for the exception of two. If they are willing to tell you more about it, just listen attentively, laugh at their corny joke, and don’t let that awkward silence set in. For those of you who have experienced this with me and responded appropriately, thanks!
3. Don’t assess/analyze their ability to make life decisions.
Be considerate in the moments after you are told that someone is color blind. In college, because I majored in graphic design, I was required to work with color daily. I had two instructors who, upon discovering that I was color blind, would do simple things like discreetly arrange my colors in a way that I could identify them and not suffer embarrassment in front of my peers.
Again, this is not an attempt to gain sympathy. I just want to shine a light on something that doesn’t get talked about much and ask for consideration. Almost everyone that knows me already knows this so talking about it is very easy for me.