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Libby-Jane Charleston

The tech behind color blind glasses & how they actually work

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Libby-Jane Charleston
Libby-Jane Charleston
 2021-05-11

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Most colour blind people are only partially colour blind.@Enchroma

More than 300 million people in the world are color blind.

For color blind people, the world can appear grey and dull. Some colors are indistinguishable, such as purple and blue. Imagine if you couldn't see all the colors in a sunset; red appears brown, red and green traffic lights look white; peanut butter appears green; and pink looks grey.

Around 300 million people worldwide are color blind; one in 12 men (eight per cent) and one in 200 women (0.5 per cent). Most colour blind people are only partially colour blind because they can still see colours, but they see only a narrow range of colours.

According to Vanessa Honson, Optometrist from UNSW Optometry Clinic, instead of 'color blindness', it's more accurate to say 'color deficiency' or 'color weakness.'

"Color blindness is typically inherited genetically and carried recessively on the X chromosome. A father can't pass his red-green color blindness on to his sons. But if a woman is red-green color blind, all her sons will also be color blind," Honson says.

For decades, there have been glasses that claim to help the color blind. They typically use a pink or reddish-tinted lens that means you're essentially looking through a red or pink pane of glass.

But now there are color blind glasses that feature sophisticated technology that has had astounding results.

Colour blind artist Daniel Arsham has released a documentary on the impact color blindness has had on his art, and how EnChroma glasses dramatically changed his work.

For much of his career, Arsham favoured grey.

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Daniel ArshamSupplied

But, after using the color blindness glasses, he unveiled his first exhibition in full color.

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Daniel ArshamSupplied

"Color blindness doesn't mean that I don't see colour. It means that the range of color is drastically reduced, especially in low lighting scenarios or at times where you might have colours that are close to each other on the color spectrum," Arsham told Semaine.

"So what these lenses do is refract the light in a different way so it separates the colors further apart on the color spectrum. It's not actually curing it; what it's doing is tricking your eye into reading more variation."

EnChroma CEO Andy Schmeder said they've created a special patent-pending optical technology ('multi-notch' filtering) that removes small slices of light where the red and green cones in the retina overlap the most for the color blind.

"The EnChroma glasses were researched through three US National Institute of Health (NIH) research grants and 10 years of R&D and clinical studies using scientific colour vision tests such as the D-15," Schmeder said.

"The glasses enhance the vibrancy and saturation of certain colours and improve colr discrimination, depth and detail perception without distorting the colors the color blind already see well."

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This chart shows the difference between the two types of colour blindness.@Enchroma

While the glasses are not a 'cure' for color blindness, they've been shown to be effective for about four out of five red-green color blind people.

"We hear from parents who tell us their child is now more confident in school because they can better see the colors in a social studies map or tell the difference when their teacher writes in red, green or purple marker on the board, or that they enjoy doing art more because their classmates don't laugh anymore because they're no longer coloring the sky purple instead of blue," Schmeder said.