Our world is a vast expanse of colours, shades, and hues. We take for granted the ability to gaze at a sunset or admire a van Gogh painting. Colour plays a huge role in our every day lives, from knowing what food is ripe to stopping at a traffic light. Now imagine a world where red and green look the same or where a sunset is made from shades of yellows. This is the case for children and adults that have colour vision deficiencies.
What is colour blindness?
Colour blindness, or colour vision deficiency, happens when the ‘cones’ (colour-detecting nerve cells located in the back of the eye) do not develop correctly. So people who are colour blind can in fact see some colours, they just have trouble distinguishing between the specific kinds. For example; like red and green or blue and purple.
There are two main forms of colour blindness that are more common;
- Deutan (deuteranomaly) In Deutan-type colour vision deficiency may experience confusions between colours such as green and yellow, or blue and purple.
- Protan (protanomaly & protanopia) In Protan-type colour vision deficiency may experience confusion between greens, yellows, oranges, reds, and browns.
It is said that the ‘Protan’ type colour vision deficiency is more common. Especially in men where studies show 1 in 12 males may have varying degrees of colour blindness. There are degrees of severity when it comes to being colour blind, from people who see everything in dull shades to no colour definition at all, and in extremely rare cases only black and white.
So how do you treat colour blindness?
Unfortunately, there is no real treatment for colour blindness. However, with our current technology we can find ways to help people with colour blindness see some form of colour definition. There are now special glasses and even contact lenses that can assist mild cases with correcting colours.
What are the warning signs?
The signs of colour blindness aren't always easy to pick up and most children will go undiagnosed until later in life when they enter school and start to do activities like sorting colour blocks, copying different colours or even simply colouring in. You may notice that your child uses both purple and blue in their skies and think that is odd, but the child simply cannot see the difference in the two colours. A colour blind child may show odd characteristics such as using blue when instructed to use purple, or green when told to use red etc. Or even exhibit the inability to tell certain shades of colours apart such as light blue and light pink, or neon green and neon yellow.
What can I do as a parent?
In South Africa there is not a lot of awareness with what to do when you suspect your child to have colour vision deficiency. Well, we here at Labels4School have done some homework! If your child is aged 4-5 you can go visit an Ophthalmologist, they will perform a simple colour recognition test with shapes and colours, where as a child aged 6+ can go to a standard Optometrist where they can do a more in-depth colour recognition test.
The ideal age to test a child for colour vision deficiency is around the age of 6, as this is when they will be starting a more demanding form of schooling in terms of colour recognition and working with colours on a regular basis.
As a Parent/Gaudian, it is important to explain to your child what it means to have colour vision deficiency (to be colour blind). Teach them that it is not a disability that should be feared, encourage your child to be open and honest with a school task that they might be having trouble with. Be understanding when they are faced with a challenge like playing certain boarded gamer or TV games.
Also remember that it is important to think about the word choices you use when giving an instruction to a child, do not use descriptions based on colour, but rather what the object is e.g. don't say “put it there by the red book”, rather say “put it there by the big book on the second shelf”. If after you have had your child tested for colour blindness, and they do in fact have one of the two most common variations, ask the optician to write you a letter that you can send to the school to inform them of a possible difficulty in learning due to this colour vision deficiency.
Lastly, never feel guilty about your child having colour blindness. Children are very resilient and very good at hiding the fact they might not see the world quite like you can.
What can I do as a teacher?
It is not often that a teacher will notice a colour-blind child in their class, sometimes they chalk it up to having ADHD, or simply not paying attention to an instruction, and sometimes it goes unnoticed simply because a child has learnt to differentiate the subtle changes in certain shades to know that it links to what we would call ‘red’ or ‘green’. Other children might even have a close friend that they ask to point out the colours they are struggling with. So, it is not always possible for a teacher to pick up these things unless they know what to look for.
Here as some easy changes to help in your classroom:
- Write the colour ‘red’ underneath a shape or object that is red etc
- Do not put key colours next to each other such as; greens, yellows, oranges, reds, and browns. Purples and Blues.
- Do not base a pattern purely on colour, use shapes or objects as well
- Try not to write with red and green markers on a white board as they will appear similar
- Write out the name of the colour if it is relevant to the instruction e.g. ‘yellow sun, ‘red car’ etc
- Make sure that all the art supplies and colours are labelled correctly
Being more mindful about a child's needs can you a lot of trouble in the long run, if everyone understands the limitations of colour vision deficiency, then they can help by being more mindful about the way they verbalise and instruction or even provide key visual aids to assist a child during their developmental years.
This is why we at Labels4school have introduced our latest label range, the ‘Colour Blind Label’ pack. This unique label pack has been specifically designed to assist children entering pre-school and junior school to identify and easily learn colour variations at home and in the classroom. Each label is marked with a colour bar, a corresponding symbol and the descriptive word, the words are written in all lower case for younger children, and with black text on a white background so it appears crisp, clear and easy to read.
Our colour blind labels are printed on out premium range labels so they are waterproof, freezer and dishwasher safe. Offering you a wide variety of sizes, you can use these labels on anything from cutlery, lunch boxes and toys to pencil crayons and other general stationery items.
Get your set of colour blind labels here