Color blindness both impairs and empowers: it’s all perspective

Everyday, people around the world have to deal with color blindness – their perception of shades and intensities is altered. Imagine standing in the middle of Times Square and seeing a green and white Coca-Cola advertisement – this form of color blindness is called protanomaly and deuteranomaly (most common). This is when the eye has a reduced sensibility to red and green light. People with either of these color blindness conditions tend to have difficulty identifying red, green, brown, and orange.

According to the Color Blindness Awareness organization, color blindness is present in 8% of men and 5% of women in the world. A usually hereditary condition, it can be detected at childbirth or later in life, caused by other illnesses and conditions such as diabetes, sclerosis, liver and eye diseases.
The cause of color blindness is because rods and cones, the light sensitive cells in the retina, can’t function properly in processing images. Rods maintain night vision and cones are responsible for color differentiation in daylight. There are three types of cones which perceive different colors: green, blue, and green. When light enters the eye, it stimulates the three cone cells to generate the color spectrum, allowing people to match a color to the image projected in the back of the eye.

A likely theory as to why people are color blind is that it develops due to a fault or deficiency of the cones in a person’s eye. However, there is still research being done today to find the exact cause. It is also possible that the pathway that connects the eye to the brain is not functioning properly.

Many children who develop color blindness at a young age aren’t conscious about their condition. However that was not the case for sophomore Henry Ziemer. He realized at around age 10 that his mind perceives greens and reds as darker than they are, often confusing dark green with black.

He explained how he came to know of his color blindness: “My middle school had a test and they showed you – red and green dots together – and there was a number in the dots and I couldn’t discern where the number was in the dots.” Ziemer said.

When it comes to common knowledge, many people assume that people with the condition have a significantly degraded sense of color, but most forms of color blindness aren’t that severe. “I know that a chair is red and that trees are green but it’s more like if there’s a painting and someone asks, ‘What do you see?’…I might say black and yellow when it’s actually green,” Ziemer said.

He states it doesn’t cause him a huge amount of trouble, since he isn’t fully color blind: “Just don’t ever ask me to cut the red wire,”

Color blindness and synesthesia are two of the many neurological conditions in the world that people have to deal with everyday. But, synesthetes and color blinded people don’t view it as a barrier to living ordinary lifestyles, as they are able to live their lives around this obstacle that has been thrown at them. “It’s really fun to have it sometimes,” junior and synesthete Isabelle Saul-Hughes said. Synesthetes and color blinded people, believe it or not, actually enjoy experiencing in life where they can taste the sound of music or see the world through a unique viewfinder.

“I do not think I would change my color blindness, it’s how I have always lived and I find that it gives me a different way to view the world, in general I enjoy my vision and have learned to live well with it,” Ziemer said. Many students without color blindness or synesthesia may view these conditions as barriers to living ordinary lives, but members in the St. Paul Academy and Summit School community are able to go about their day without any serious problems.
Due to this lack of understanding among non-color blind and non-synesthetic students, they should be educated to the ways of perceiving the world as few can understand and rather than being seen as an obstacle, these conditions should be celebrated by the school community.