Living with Colourblindness

I thought I’d write a post about colourblindness. And some of the misconceptions I think are out there. Also to point out my experience of it and some of the rubbish I’ve read online recently. It will take you a couple of minutes to read this or a little bit longer if you’re a slow reader but I think it contains some useful insight from a colourblind persons perspective.

I have red/green colourblindness and until I was 16 I was completely unaware of it. I had every intention of joining the Royal Air Force but colourblindness quickly put an end to that. Since 16 I have had 4 tests, with all of them stating I have a very mild red/green colourblindness.

The most infuriating part of it is that I can see red and I can see green. I’m starting to find a lot of ignorance exists around the subject with people commonly saying it’s easy because, for example, on traffic lights red is at the top green is at the bottom. My explanation that I can see both red and green is often ignored at this point. The problem that I have can be best described with Excel spreadsheets. If a cell has been highlighted with a red or green colour and I need to highlight another cell with the same colour, sometimes on the palate I will choose a pink or a dark red or a light green or dark green. However once I select the colour I can instantly see it is wrong so normally it is one or two clicks till I have the right colour.

In IT I don’t think colourblindness affects me at all. It certainly doesn’t affect me when I’m driving, and in the many flying lessons I did as a teenager I did not have any problems. I’m sure there are those who have it much worse than me but if I’m honest I don’t think I have a colourblindness problem, I just have a problem with shades of them. But I can see all the colours – so does that mean I am colourblind?

In August last year I applied for a new opportunity to do something I’ve fancied doing for many years. As part of the application I had to go through a full medical assessment – part of this assessment included a colourblindness test, performed by somebody who, at the beginning of the test, said “I have never completed one of these tests before.”

As sods law would dictate, seven months later, the results of that test are still causing me problems. The doctor who performed the colourblindness test returned results of a severe colourblindness. Naturally I protested immediately and said that I disagreed with the results of the test. My protest was reinforced by the results of an eye test only two weeks earlier, where the optician had said that I had a mild red/green colourblindness.

Months and months back I offered a simple solution to this, I said I would be happy to do another colourblindness test with the doctor who had experience of conducting the tests. Obviously that has not happened as I’m writing this today. I’m getting pretty frustrated that I’m still waiting nearly a year later to progress within this role, and on Friday just gone found myself using the words “discriminated against” for the first time. I genuinely felt, for the first time, that I was being treat differently because of colourblindness and when it dawned on me that I felt this way – I was surprised at how demeaning it actually felt.

I thought I’d look up online some of the advice out there for people and businesses regarding people with colourblindness. What I found was pretty frustrating. One website had a full article regarding posters and other images that are commonly used in public, it used the sale sign for example red background white writing. It also used a supermarket shelf of various products as an example.

The page (here) showed what normal people would see and colourblind people would see. What it in fact showed was that they had turned pretty much everything red into a green colour. It also used an image of different coloured pencils again, with a before and after approach where they had simply changed the colour of everything red to green.

To ensure that I was not losing the plot I showed these images to my partner pointing out the colours on all of the before pictures, stating clearly the various colours that I could see which were all correct. So does that mean I am not colourblind?

I intend on writing to the website authors as I believe the article is pushing out miss-information. People will read that and make an assumption on what colourblind people can and cannot see, which takes me back to the good old traffic light example. Red is at the top green is at the bottom so it doesn’t really matter.

Apologies for the length of this post as it was written completely with the built-in iPad voice recognition. I’m pretty impressed with it.

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