Conversations on Colorblindness

What follows is the text of message with Richard S. He and his brother are Red-Green colorblind.

Richard wrote -

Thanks for your informative and interesting web page.

My brother and I are "red-green" colorblind. At least that's the term used when I was young. It was also said to be the most common form of colorblindness. We have more difficulty with green than with red.

My mother told me the story that she first knew my brother was colorblind when he said to her, while she was driving, "why do they call it a green light when it's white?" To me it's not quite white, but a very pale green.

It's not a problem to tell when it's a green light at an intersection though, it's always on the top of the signal, and I can see the yellow and the red well. It can be a bit of a problem at night because there are numerous white streetlights and oncoming headlights. I need to pick out those green traffic signals to (in some cases) help locate and upcoming intersection, and so I can keep an eye on it for when it turns yellow, avoiding a brief delay in detecting that.

Another interesting problem is that while the more pure shades of green are obvious to me, unless they are too pale, some of the less pure shades may look gray. So I can be looking at something gray and not be able to tell if it really IS that shade of gray, or if it's a shade of green that looks gray to me. It could be either. Sometimes, but less often, the same problem occurs with other color combinations such as certain off-reds and brown.

In everyday life, I don't have major difficulties. If I have any doubts, I just ask someone nearby. Recently though, I've been getting into this whole class of very interesting board games popular in Europe. They usually involve a bunch of playing-pieces and sometimes cards. In some games, I have to make sure I choose a distinct color for my own pieces, and look closely to tell one of the other players' pieces from each other. Other games might involve some sort of cards divided in to classes by color.

Recently I was going to play a highly rated card-based game (I believe it was the one called "Set") where a bunch of cards sit in the middle of the table and all the players at the table need to look at them. But, the cards in this game all had pastel colors on the back (i.e. light, muted shades), and even up close most of them were difficult to almost impossible to tell apart. So, I couldn't play it, which was a bummer. Luckily, I realized the problem before I started playing.

Thanks again,


Marty wrote -

I have learned to adapt to a world that relies on colors to differentiate things. Fortunately, traffic signals are pretty standard and are usually hung in the middle of the intersection, but when they are on poles on the corner it does cause problems. My kids get annoyed when I slow down at intersections and can't seem to understand that I slow down to determine whether there is a traffic signal or traffic sign there.

One of my big beefs these days is with magazines and TV shows that use red text on black or very dark backgrounds, or that use color gradations to indicate differences in temperature, or precipitation, or on economic charts. People who are not colorblind have a hard time understanding what colorblind people have to contend with.

Glad you like the site and find it useful. I try to add new items as I come across them.

Last updated January 10, 2002