Conversations on Colorblindness

What follows is the text of a messages from Devin H. who has found an intresting solution to a common problem facing the colorblind. 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 Devin's email address out of respect for his privacy

Devin wrote -

My name is Staff Sergeant Devin H. and I am a military intelligence analyst working in law enforcement support. I enjoyed your website on colorblindess and I wanted to share a success story with you. It is long but I feel that it may be encouraging for those researching the topic for reasons of employment.

For years I have been seeking employment in Michigan as a police officer. The current standards in law enforcement bar people who fail the Ishahara pseudoisochromatic plates from certification as police officers. After failing this test back in 1996, I enlisted in the US Army in hopes of becoming an MP. Alas, this colorblindness also barred me from most career fields in the military, particularly in combat arms. I ended up in a military band (music was my major in college)in the National Guard while working as a schoolteacher. I still had a dream of being in law enforcement and thought this color vision rule was grossly unfair considering that I was a combat-trained, educated, and physically fit soldier with a strong desire to serve law enforcement. Not all police officers fit this description, as you may guess. I took a job as a full time National Guardsman working in law enforcement support and was assigned to the Michigan State Police. My experience made me desirable as a Reserve Police Officer at a local department which didn't require certification (I never mentioned my color blindess).

A couple of months ago I was approached by a local sheriff's department and was asked to apply there. I was worried, of course, about the test. I asked the State Police recruiter who works in my office if the restriction had been lifted. He said that it hasn't but mentioned some new prescription red lenses that help colorblind people distinguish the colors in the test. If I could pass the test wearing those glasses, he said, I would be certified. The glasses are expensive but an article I read on the internet said that sometimes plain red sunglasses would provide the same effect.

Well, yesterday I went to the eye doctor and tried this and to my amazement it worked. I correctly read all 14 plates on the Ishahara test. Without the red lenses, I could only see two. I was told I have "red-green color deficiency". Needless to say, I will be pursuing the police academy now with the confidence of knowing that I can pass the color test wearing red lenses.

I hope that perhaps this information may prove useful to someone discouraged about a loss of opportunity because of color blindness. As an side note, it is ironic that my favorite hobby is painting model soldiers. It is a real challenge and I have to use marked paint bottles because I can easily mix up greens and browns, blues and purples, etc. I have found that my attention to colors used in the subtle shading of my soldiers has allowed me to distinguish more colors than before I had this hobby.

Perhaps it is possible to "train" your mind to recognize certain colors. Your information on camofluage was very true, by the way. I can pick out troops in the field quite easily. Thanks again for your great website.

Marty wrote -

Interesting letter!

Of course what is probably happening is that the red lenses are filtering out everything not red making red stuff more conspicuous.

Folks have written to me over the years asking if there were any lenses that would correct colorblindness and my answer has always been that there weren't as far as I know.

With your permission I will post your letter and maybe some folks will be helped by it.

Thank you for sharing with me.

Last updated May 8, 2002