Color blindness

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I am colorblind. My color blindness makes it difficult for me to read anything color coded such as graphs or pie charts. When I ran a textile plant in Buffalo, I was rewiring a machine that had color coded wiring. There were just two of us, Lee and myself in the plant due to a scheduled shut down. I asked Lee for help and asked him what color a wire was. His response was “come on”. I asked him again and he said “you’re messing with me”. When I explained I was color blind and couldn’t tell, he looked at me and started laughing hysterically. It turned out he was color blind also. Thus began a long day of tracing the wiring by hand.

I am often asked what color an apple or a strawberry is. Most of us would say red and so would I, but how you perceive red may not be how I perceive red. The color I see as red is the color I have always been taught is red. However, I cannot see ripe apples or cherries on a tree unless I get close and even then, I primarily see them by their shape. I also sometimes have difficulty seeing yellow type on a white background.

They say there is no cure for color blindness, no surgery or no drug you can take to correct this. However, I hear that people with red-green color blindness may be able to use a special set of lenses to help them perceive colors more accurately called X-Chron. Visual aids have also been developed to help people cope with color blindness. There are iPhone and iPad apps, for example, that help people with color blindness discriminate among colors.

When my wife was repainting out bedroom, she asked me what color I wanted it. I said any color but yellow. It was several years after she painted it before she revealed that our bedroom was now yellow.

Eye care professionals use a variety of tests to diagnose this problem. These tests can quickly diagnose specific types of color perception problems. The Ishihara Color Test is the most common test for red-green color blindness. The test consists of a series of circles. The circles are filled with dots and some of them form a number clearly visible to those with normal color vision, but invisible or difficult to see for those with color blindness. When I joined the navy, they gave me this test and the only numbers I could see were the ones on the sample plate.

Traffic lights sometimes pose a challenge for me, especially the older style signals. I sometimes have to read some of them by the position of the light. Thankfully, most lights are vertical, with green on the bottom and red on the top, but place a single flashing light at an intersection and I have a problem. I can watch what the person in front of me does and hope they are law abiding. I could just stop for the flashing light or I can ask my passenger, if I have one. My wife is very familiar with the plea, “quick, what color?” when we are driving. She knows I can’t tell the color of the single flashing light and she has to let me know what it is. The interesting thing though, is I can tell the color at night.

Reading maps or buying clothes that have colors that match can also cause me problems. My wife used to frequently lay my clothing out so they would match. We have now taken to buying clothing so all my shirts go with all my pants. I have found that most things go with jeans or black or grey pants so that is now how I dress.

I also never saw the beauty in rainbows because all I see is an arc of yellow and blue. Pretty, yes, but not as awe inspiring as it must be to someone who sees all the colors. Another thing I fail to see is the beauty of fall leaves. I am told they are beautiful and in many colors by people with normal color vision and I just have to believe them. These are all relatively minor inconveniences though and I have learned to adapt to them.

I recently received two pair of X-Chron, glasses $700 worth. One pair for indoors and one pair for outdoors. I was suspicious of their ability to help me with my colorblindness but they had a money back offer so I thought I would give them a try. If you don’t have this problem you don’t understand what this is for me.

We went out for dinner and on the way home I was looking out the window. I suddenly started yelling apples and my wife thought I was having a stroke. I was seeing apples on a tree, a first for me. I have never seen ripe apples on a tree. I am sold on these glasses and don’t think I will be returning them.

I am a Lockport resident but if you ever have to give him directions, just don’t tell me to turn at the green or the red house.