My husband is color blind, or more exactly, color deficient. He can see just fine. He can see colors too, but he can't always tell the differences between colors. He does not just see 50 Shades of Grey! And yes, more than one person has asked him that. They test for colorblindness in schools these days, but apparently not in 70's since he didn't learn that he was colorblind until he joined the Navy. Since my trip made me realize how little the average person knows about colorblindness, I suggest that everyone read this ammmazing book by Oliver Sachs called The Island of the Colorblind which is about a Micronesian island of Pingelap where there are people who are completely colorblind (called achromatopsia), and do see the world in shades of grey. This is actually a serious condition that comes with a lot of difficulties (including incredible light sensitivity and difficulty focusing your eyes) and is incredibly rare. It is really a fascinating read, and taught us so much. If nothing else, click on the link and read the editorial reviews to get some understanding of the condition.
When we first met and he explained his colorblindness, we came across this website (go there now or this will make no sense to you!) showing pictures of how someone with color deficiency sees things verses what I see. It really was eye opening (no pun intended) because without looking very very hard at the pictures, they all looked the same to him, but incredibly different to me. On one level, it made me profoundly sad that he would never see the deep green saturation of the green grass with bright red flowers, that he has no idea what color my eyes are (even if he says they are the most beautiful he's ever seen), and that I had to learn to cook meat (more on that), but he sees things in a way I'd never imagined because he has had to create coping mechanisms to deal with this disability.
When looking at a green tree that most people would say, "Oh look a pretty green tree," he sees the shades of green as distinct 'colors' and analyses the parts of the whole. In computer programming terms (cause I'm cool and geeky like that), we look at the object as a whole, while he is analyzes the individual classes that make up the object. He has created some really interesting techniques for overcoming his color blindness, but like being left handed, society hasn't adapted many techniques that would make it easier for colorblind people to fully interact with their environments.
I joke with my husband that I need to write a survival guide for living with the colorblind...so here it is. Everything in this list has happened to us, and funny things keep happening as we forget that we see things just a little different. These differences have made us stronger as a couple, more understanding of differences, and made me a better cook. Enjoy, and comment with your own stories!
When traveling or living with the colorblind:
1. Do not ask them to read a Google map with traffic overlays of red (stopped) yellow (slow) and green (normal) because they can't see the red and green any different than the background color, and just wonder why there are occasional gaps in traffic (the yellow). First he was confused, then he got really grouchy when he realized a program was written relying wholly on color.
2. Do not get them addicted to any game that involves matching color for speed...like Bejeweled. It's sort of sad to watch him play, because he has to do it entirely by the shape and it takes forever.
3. Do not ask them what they 'don't understand about a warm pink center' when they once again overcook your steak. THEY CAN'T SEE PINK. (This one took about a year for me to realize).
4. Don't ask them what they can't see...duh, they can't see it! People ask him this all the time.
5. If they are red/green color deficient (like my husband) Don't ask them "how can you drive, since traffic lights are red and green?" The lights are in the same place each time, and they look at the light placement, not the color! When playing Rock Band he doesn't look at the colors of the buttons that come up either, but rather the placement.
6. Don't look at them sadly and tell them what they are missing. You will get punched, and deserve it. I deserve to be punched. He didn't know what he was missing until I pointed it out.
7. Don't ask them to drive in the city where the traffic lights are on the sides of the road. It's a mean mean trick since they look like tail lights.
8. Don't ask them if they see everything in grey...seriously, people.
9. Don't buy socks in multiple colors (brown, dark blue, black) and laugh when they can't match their socks correctly...it's mean. Don't question why they have 10 shirts of the same brand in varying colors and 5 pairs of neutral pants. It just makes getting dressed easier. Also, if a shirt stains their underarms...please tell them, because they'll never be able to see it.
10. Don't ask them to do the laundry if there is anything red in it. They can, and will manage to dye all of your clothing pink. When my husband was in the Navy, he once had dress 'pinks' instead of whites. I think they had a hard time actually punishing him for something that he literally couldn't see.
11. Don't point out that the color that they've worn for the last decade and love and thought was blue...is actually purple. Finding this out involved a rather embarrassing exchange over cat collars in a pet store two years ago. I thought it was awesome that he liked purple (my favorite color) so it broke my heart a little to realize he had such a hard time telling it apart from blue.
12. Don't highlight your hair red and feel sad when they can't see it. Or wonder why they like goth makeup or bright pink stripes in hair. It's what they can easily see. In bright light, he can see my highlights, but normally it's a no go.
13. Don't take them peach picking where the COLOR (pale pink/yellowish) is the determination of whether or not to pink the fruit. While my husband did wonderfully at this, it was slow, annoying and incredibly difficult for him to determine which were ripe enough to pick.
14. Don't let them go through the leftover paint to fix spots on walls unless the color variant is very large. It won't end well if you have pale colored walls.
15. Don't be vain about your blue eyes. When you ask the man that you love what color your eyes are, he'll answer with "I don't know, but they are the most beautiful green...blue...grey.. I've ever seen," with a note of panic in their eyes. That...was humbling.
1. Ask them to describe how they see something. "What colors do you see in the sunset?"
2. Do ask them to explain why two colors look different! People who aren't colorblind won't really have an answer for this. Colors just look...different. He can tell you exactly what color is missing to make something a little different because he has to work at it.
3. Buy a meat thermometer. This has saved my marriage, and dinner on so many occasions.
4. Dye/highlight your hair for yourself, not your spouses approval.
5. Paint your toenails so bright and happy colors, he'll appreciate it. By bright, I mean red and aquamarine. Not some shiny pale pink. He can't see that at all.
6. Do all of the laundry, it avoids awkward conversations later about why all of your white face cloths are now pink.
7. Continue to make games with 'color blind' settings that change the colors of the pieces into ones more easily seen by people with color deficiencies (there are many different types of colorblindness!)
8. Learn! Learn about what colorblindness is, and put yourself in someone else's shoes for a day.
9. Gently (not patronizingly) attempt to explain what colors YOU see things as. An example would be the cat collar; "I see this one as more purple because there is more red in it, this is more blue."
10. Understand that 'shades' of colors are really hard to see differences and pale colors are impossible to make out.
I've learned a lot about colorblindness throughout my marriage, and will continue to learn more. It's a really interesting topic and one that constantly challenges us to put ourselves in someone else's shoes. Are you colorblind? What experiences have you had? Do you have any more do's and don't's to add to the list?