Are you colour blind?

Probably not, if you’re reading this on a blog of a graphic designer. But it’s estimated that colour blindness affects approximately 8% of men population and 1 in 200 women in the world. In Britain this means that there are approximately 3 million colour blind people (about 4.5% of the entire population), most of whom are male.

Worldwide, there are approximately 300 million people with colour blindness, almost the same number of people as the entire population of the USA!

The most common types of color blindness are protanopia (blindness to red) and deuteranopia (blindness to green). About one-third of color blind people are completely blind to red or green; most of the remainder have milder forms of color blindness.

I’m not colour blind, so why should I care?

Most people with some kind of colour blindness are not able to be designers like you. Or electricians. Or perform many other fantastic jobs out there. Not that it’s impossible, but not seeing all colours in the same way as most people do, affects life in many aspects. These include:

  • not being able to recognise traffic lights correctly,
  • not being able to choose right clothes for you and your children,
  • not being able to distinguish ripe fruit from fresh one,
  • not being able to distinguish some charts and graphs, including tests in school.

Like this, for example:

Deutranopia – green colour blind

This is how green-colour blind people see available seats in this graphical representation of real seats in a movie theatre. What you’ve seen is a simulation of how a person with colour blindness sees this image. This example was posted in a Facebook page by a colour blind person who clearly had issues perceiving information on this example.

To people who are not color blind, this image looks like this:

No colour blindness

So, be grateful, if you’re seeing all the orange/green colours on the second image, because many people don’t.

Not disability, it’s about accessibility

Contrary to blindness or deafness, colour blindness is not considered a disability. So it’s squeezed somewhere in the middle and thus gets very little attention. It’s definitely discussed too rare in the world of creating graphic designs, products, photography, user interfaces, and so on.

Colour blindness doesn’t get a label or a certificate to put on a product. Mostly there’s not even an alternative offered to colour blind people. Most products in the world are designed without even testing user interfaces and colour combinations, which actually takes less then a minute by using free online simulators.

Normal vision (left) and deuteranopia – green color blindness (right), simulated online

Colour-blind people experience many struggles in everyday life, from not being able to choose food for cooking, finding everyday objects easily, to not being able to perform some jobs and common everyday tasks.

Solutions

Yes, there are some solutions (glasses, browser extensions and software plugins..) that can help colour blind people to live ‘normally’ and also standards (w3.org) for designing for accessibility. But do designers really design each product considering this very large accessibility issue together with many other disabilities out there? Surely not, if even electrical cords or the universal traffic lights don’t include an alternative to people who are colour blind.

Electrical wires/cords with normal vision (left) and red blind – protanopia (right)

Creating accesible web content

There is a system and it’s called Colour Universal Design (CUD).

Color Universal Design (CUD) is a user-oriented design system that ensures that graphical information is conveyed accurately to people with various types of color vision, including people with color blindness. 

https://medium.com/all-about-analytics/color-universal-design-cud-for-business-intelligence-dashboards-ec2f1c790bab

Photoshop, for example, supports CUD (Color Universal Design) through some of its proofing features, which can simulate color blindness. This feature allows the designer to see a simulation of different types of color blindness, so he can design a universal experience.

With Photoshop, designers can proof images with Color Universal Design (CUD) to ensure that graphical information is conveyed accurately to people with various types of color vision impairment, including people with colour blindness.

This kind of simulations make it easier to create accessible visuals and content even before the final products is presented to the public. This up-front move of these giant companies like Adobe is in my opinion critical to raise more awareness about universal accessibility.

There are numerous groups on social media and also organisations that address colour blindness, so you’ll find them easily. But not enough has been done for people who don’t see colours accurately to live normally. As a ‘smaller’ disability than deafness and blindness, it doesn’t get many attention by mass public and about 300 million people on this planet are very much aware of that by not being able to use everyday products the same way as non-colour-blind people.

Links

CUD: http://www.cudo.jp/colorud
W3.org: https://www.w3.org/TR/low-vision-needs/
Online simulator: https://pilestone.com/pages/color-blindness-simulator-1
Enchroma glasses: https://enchroma.com/
Chrome extension: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/colorblinding/dgbgleaofjainknadoffbjkclicbbgaa
Adobe accessibility features: https://helpx.adobe.com/si/creative-cloud/adobe-color-accessibility-tools.html
https://www.adobe.com/accessibility/products/photoshop.html

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