Conversations on Colorblindness

What follows is the text of a series of messages with Delinda J. who has a colorblind son named Will. I have done some minor formatting to the text to make it easier to read, but have not changed any of the spelling or grammar.

As a note I have removed Delinda's email address out of respect for her privacy

Delinda wrote -

I had not "hit" your site since early Fall when my son, who is colorblind, began kindergarten.  From what I remember, I think it has changed.  I want to thank you for a site that is so informative and so easy to read and easy to relate to.  Most people don't understand colorblindness.  When I mention some difficulties my son is having, some people tell me "oh, colorblindness is so common" or "well, just wait until he sees that there are other people worse off than he is".  Well, those comments don't HELP my son.  At his work table in class yesterday, two of the kids commented, "oh, look, we are the only two to pick purple paper," to which my son offered, "Uh-uh, I have purple, too."  He actually had blue.  At his first instructional-league basketball game Saturday, he was given a wrist sweatband that matched the wristband of the person from the other team who he was to guard – it was a black wristband, and he kept trying to keep up with the kid wearing the maroon wristband.  I privately asked the coach if he could try to only give my son the yellow or white wristbands.  In karate, he was made fun of when he was talking about getting his brown belt -- he is only a blue belt now and all the kids knew their next belt was the green one.

A few weeks ago, Will cried and said, "Sometimes, I wish I weren't colorblind."  I explained that he had "magic eyes", that he can see things some of us others can't.  I explained, "You know how you are so good and quick at matching-games and hidden-pictures and mazes?  Because you have magic eyes that see details that we just don't see."  I think he liked that answer, but I can see where it can become very frustrating.  For his first four years of life, I always told him that on the water faucet red means hot and blue means cold. It was very frustrating when, at five years old, he was STILL asking me, "Mommy, which one is cold?" It was just after "hitting" your site again tonight that I realized WHY he has to ask each time -- he thinks he is seeing purple on the cold faucet handle.

I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate what you are doing for colorblindness, and I look forward to more updates.  I hope the world around us becomes more color-friendly, because it can be very frustrating for both the mom and the kid. Thanks.

Delinda J., mother of a wonderful son named Will

Marty wrote -

Thank you for your kind message.  I keep getting messages from parents such as your self who have children who are colorblind and I try to respond to each one.

I was not formally diagnosed as being colorblind until I tried to enlist in the Air Force, at age 23.  That was the first time anyone gave me a formal test. Colorblindness is very easy to detect, but to my knowledge cannot be "cured" - not by special glasses and not by surgery.

Parents should be encouraged to ask their pediatrician, or better yet their ophthalmologist (eye doctor) to test their children (and themselves).

Colorblind parents can still help their colorblind children (it is a Genetic sex-linked trait) but only if they are aware of their own level of colorblindness.  Colorblindness is predominantly male, but it has been found some women as well.

Some forms of colorblindness do not adversely affect ones normal activities, while others can be very dangerous if not detected.

For instance,

The most effective "treatment" for colorblindness is making the colorblind individual aware that they are colorblind, and in helping the colorblind individual understand how their vision differs from that of others.  Although there are many people who have similar degrees of colorblindness, as near as I know no two people have exactly the same color vision.

Perhaps the most effective thing we can do, colorblind people and those With  "normal" color vision, is to make other people, companies and publishers (hard-copy and web) of the difficulties colorblind people have, and to help them by suggesting more "seeable" color combinations.

I for one try to contact those nice folks who print black text on dark colored backgrounds.  These pages are impossible for me to read, even with the brightest reading lights.

I hope this helps you.  With your permission I would like to add your message, and my response to my colorblindness pages

Delinda wrote -

Yes, you have my permission to post my e-mail.  As a sidebar, I wanted you to know that my father was around 23 also when he joined the Navy and found out he was colorblind.  He said he never was interested in school and teachers called him Lazy; classmates and cousins made fun of his coloring pages -- always black.  To me, he is the smartest man in the world.  Now, we know why he didn't show an interest in school; he couldn't see the world as the teacher and other kids could see it.

Thanks again for a wonderful site.  I will be certain to "hit" the site more often for more insight.

Marty wrote -

Unfortunately, colorblindness is not something that can be easily self-diagnosed.

Most people are unaware that they are afflicted until someone else points it out.  Your father's teachers and classmates did not recognize his problem, which is a problem in and of itself, maybe the largest problem of all.  Like self-diagnosis, diagnosing colorblindness in others is very difficult, possibly because there are so many variations and most people think colorblindness only applies to telling red from green.  Even my mother, who was always correcting my color choices and always telling me that the green shirt I kept asking for was really tan, never realized that it was due to colorblindness.

Your son is very lucky, you diagnosed his problem, and can now work with him to help him live in a world that relies on colors for so many things.

Delinda wrote -

I found the drivers license chat interesting. I've got a quick question:

I found out my husband's cousin is colorblind, per a test for flight school he took at age 20. The cousin is my mother-in-law's sister's son. The cousin has no health condition that would cause color vision deficiency. Yet, these two sisters claim their late father was not colorblind. How can that be? I thought the colorblindness gene would pass from the grandfather through the mother to the son and no other way unless a health condition caused it.

Marty wrote -

I do not know enough about the nature of color deficiency inheritance to comment authoritatively. As far as I know it is sex-linked and that it is passed through the female. It is passed from the mother to the male children not the other way around. It shows up in males much in the same manner that hair color, eye color, up, that is somewhat randomly.

Since it doesn't show up in all males I have to assume that it is a recessive rather than a dominant trait. I am not sure of the exact ratio, but if memory serves me it is somewhere between 10 and 30% of males have some form of color deficiency. The fact that some of the sister's children were colorblind and the grandfather was not is not unusual.

I know of no connection between colorblindness and any other health condition so a person could be healthy in all other respects and still be colorblind.

Last updated March 5, 2001