Helping People with CVD See Colour
Now in Color: How Enhancements Help People with CVD see color
Colour vision deficiencies, or CVD, affect the physical makeup of the eye, decreasing an individual’s ability to distinguish between colours. The most common CVD, red-green colour blindness, affects approximately 8% of men and 0.5% of women.
Living with CVD
While typically harmless, this condition can impact the wellbeing and safety of sufferers. For example, people with red-green colour blindness cannot distinguish pink or red. So when looking at meat, someone with this CVD could not tell if the meat cooked through using just his or her sight.
Simple steps can divert most of these dangers. In the example above, one would simply use a meat thermometer or ask someone else to report the colour. To learn basic driving skills, someone with red-green colour blindness memorizes the location of traffic lights (red on top, green on bottom) and the shapes of common traffic signs.
Colour blindness hasn’t held people back. Famous sufferers include singer Bing Crosby, actor Paul Newman, and creator of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg. For the most part, the deficiency does little to shape these celebs lives (aside from necessitating a helper or labelling system to help them pick clothes). It occasionally does affect an individual’s career. In the case of Zuckerberg, his colour blindness accounts for Facebook’s blue colour palette—it’s the colour he distinguishes most clearly.
But no treatment currently exists for CVD, which leaves these individuals entirely without the experience of colour vision. However, many companies have worked on developing treatments, which we'll discuss below.
Enterprising researchers attempt to use technology or medicine to enhance the colour experience for people with CVD. Below we explore some of their advancements.
On 18 March, 2015, EnChroma released a video demonstration of its new product—colour blind countering eyeglasses. The release marks a culmination of EnChroma’s partnership with Valspar Paints Corporation.
Researchers at EnChroma studied perceptual psychophysics, or how the brain transforms physical stimuli into perceptual phenomena. To put it simply: they studied how people perceive colours and what changes that perception.
To do this, researchers created colour displays and studied the effects of different visual filters on the colours. They then created a computer algorithm which creates eyeglasses lenses based on a specific desired result—i.e. colour blindness counteraction.
The lenses create a more distinct variance between red and green colour signals. The result? Wearers see better colour saturation and differentiation.
Initially created solely for still images, Spectral Edge (a company based at the University of East Anglia), now markets a technology for televisions. This technology modifies images on the television to substitute colours people with CVD can’t see with ones they can.
The resulting images are clearer for the colour blind and virtually indistinguishable for the non-colour blind. For more information, browse Spectral Edge’s Eyeteq site.
While the method is still in its infancy, organisations like Genevolve strive not just to treat inherited CVD, but to cure it entirely. Geneticists Jay Neitz, PhD and Maureen Neitz, PhD target the genes which cause colour blindness. The gene therapy splits diverts stimuli to restore full colour vision.
Currently the pair works with squirrel monkeys. These primates display dichromia, or two-colour vision. Through gene therapy, the Neitzes successfully added the missing pigment in the monkeys’ retinas, resulting in trichomia (three-colour vision, which is how you see). The pair hopes to move on to human trials and provide this cure to individuals with colour blindness in the near future.
Browse Genevolve’s site to learn more about this process.
Thousands of mobile apps exist to help people with colour blindness navigate everyday tasks normally. These apps typically fall under one of the following categories:
- Colour Compensation: These apps identify colour deficiencies and then compensate for them, allowing colour blind individuals to distinguish them. Apps include: Colorblind Vision and Chromatic Glass.
- Colour Improvement: While colour blindness has no cure, exercises may improve an individual’s ability to distinguish particular colours. Apps include: Colorblind.
- Colour Matching: These apps assist individuals in finding matching colours. This is particularly helpful when dressing since many colour blind people see all dark colours as black. Apps include: HueVue.
- Colour Naming: These apps identify colours on a user’s screen. In this way, colour blind people can discern a red apple from a green apple and cooked meat from raw meat. Apps include: ColorBlind Assistant.
If you or a loved one experience CVD of any kind, talk to our optometrists. He or she can recommend how best to compensate for your colour deficiencies. Currently no cure exists, but technology continues to improve.
Want to see the world through someone else’s eyes? View the resources at Colour Blind Awareness Organisation’s site.
For more information about your eyes, other eye conditions, and how your optometrist can help you improve your optical health, read our other blogs and articles.