By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Several misconceptions and myths surround the topic of color vision deficiency. One common misunderstanding is that color blind individuals mistake one color for another, such as seeing red when others see green or vice versa. Instead, people who are color blind cannot distinguish colors at all and the world they see is made up of varying hues of grey. However, this condition is extremely rare and there are in fact many different forms and degrees of color blindness which are more correctly termed color vision deficiencies.
Color blindness is only one form of colour vision deficiency caused by a condition called monochromacy. Other forms of color vision deficiency include red–green deficiency which leaves a person unable to decipher certain shades of red or green, and blue–yellow deficiency where a person has difficulty differentiating between blue and green, while yellow may be perceived as grey or purple.
Color blind or color vision deficient individuals often don’t find their condition disabling. Such individuals may learn to rely on other methods of differentiating colors. When driving, for example, there may be no apparent difference between the red and amber traffic lights and the green light may appear as off white. However, individuals may rely on their knowledge that traffic lights follow a sequence of red, amber and green, rather than depending on the color they can see.
If color blindness is identified during childhood, any learning disabilities that may develop as a result of the condition may be avoided, as teaching can be modified to include and assist children with color blindness. Methods are available for helping children to identify and differentiate between texture, shapes and camouflage patterns, for example.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Feb 5, 2014