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What Is It Like To Be Color Blind?

Color Blindness Using color blindness to tease people is common. When we come across a person wearing clothes, where the colors do not match the first thought that springs into our minds is - "is he color blind?" Actually, it is not funny at all. A lot of people suffer from color blindness and is a challenge they have to live with all their lives - there is no cure for the condition. So, even though, it is not a dangerous condition and people with it can live normal lives, it is still not a joking matter.

Color blindness is caused by the lack of certain color sensitive cells in the retina or their improper functioning. The retina is that part of the eye which receives the light and colors we see and send the information to the brain for processing into shapes and colors we understand.

The retina has 3 types of color sensitive cells, one type for red, one for blue and one for green light. The mixing of these 3 colors gives us all the other colors we can see. When one or more of the color sensitive types of cells, do not function or are absent, we are unable to perceive the color associated with it.

Since very few people are completely color blind - as opposed to those who can perceive colors to a limited degree - the politically correct terminology for this condition is "color vision problem."

Color vision problems are usually genetic and are present at birth. Other causes are aging, disease and physical injury of the eye, degeneration of the optic nerve and sometimes it is a side effect of certain medications. But genetic causes are by far the most common. For a reason that is not yet understood, color blindness affects men more than women both, in frequency and the gravity of the condition.

In very mild cases of color blindness, a person may not even be aware that he has the condition - a lower intensity of some shades and a difficulty in differentiating certain hues may often go unnoticed. However, in severe cases a color blind person may be able to see only a few colors in comparison to the thousands that most people can perceive. While it is very rare, complete total color blindness - where a person can only see in black, white and shades of gray - does exist.

While color blindness is not a life threatening or incapacitating disability, it is still a serious problem that has a significant impact on the lives of those who suffer from it. Sadly, in the case of inherited color blindness there is no cure or corrective treatment. It is something that a person has to accept and endure. In the case of certain acquired forms of color blindness such as those caused by cataract, curing the cause may restore normal color vision. However, these are the minority of cases.

We often take color for granted in our lives. Of course we appreciate a beautiful flower or a clear blue sky, but in our day to day activities we take it for granted. From the time we get up to the time we go to sleep, color plays a huge role in everything we do and being color blind can be a handicap and limit us. Just think of how you would be affected in the following circumstances, if you were color blind:

  • Matching the clothes you want to wear
  • Shopping for new clothes
  • Responding when you boss gives you a file and says act on the blue portions and ignore the green
  • Working on a computer where color is important in telling you what to do
  • Handling equipment where different colored lights tell you what is happening

Get the picture? Color blind people can con most things, but life is difficult for them. Rather than stopping at a red light they have to remember that the red light is the one on top. And there are many professions that are closed to them. Obviously being an interior decorator or an artist is out. But even being a pilot, a police officer, an electrician and many other professions where colors play an important role in safety are closed to those who are color blind.

Being color blind is not a major handicap. But it is a challenge, and even though those who suffer from it can compensate in many ways and cover up the condition, they need our understanding. Asking a color blind person which color bowling ball he is using is just cruel.

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